Privacy and data protection | Cross border access to data | Privacy and confidentiality

USA gets direct access to European passenger data

By EDRi · February 26, 2003

From 5 March onwards, USA officials will have direct electronic access to databases with EU passenger data. On 19 February, U.S. Deputy Customs Commissioner Douglas Browning and officials of the European Commission agreed to give the custom officials direct access to the personal data of passengers flying to, from and through the United States.

These databases don’t just include names of passengers, but also itinerary, phone and credit card number, time of booking and possible changes. The discussion about data of a sensitive nature, such as meal preferences, was closed with a recommendation to jointly develop measures to protect these data, preferably before 5 March 2003.

In return, ‘US Customs undertakes to respect the principles of the Data Protection’, at least, as long as these principles don’t stand in the way of the secret services. ‘US Customs may provide information to other US law enforcement authorities only for purposes of preventing and combating terrorism and other serious criminal offences, who specifically request PNR information from US Customs.’

According to a press statement on 18 February by EU Traffic-Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, information would only be transferred with the consent of the passenger. If the passenger didn’t agree, he or she would pay with more stringent checks upon arrival. However reasonable that might sound, it is highly unlikely that US Customs will just close its eyes, every time it sees a mark in the database that the passenger doesn’t agree to share personal data.

Joint statement of the European Commission and US Customs

Article about the statements of Palacio (in German)