EU-US anti-terror data-sharing deal approved
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photo.A controversial deal enabling the longterm transfer of EU air passenger data to US authorities as part of the global fight against terror was finally approved Thursday in the European Parliament.
MEPs gave their green light, with 409 voting in favour, 226 against and 33 abstentions, after two years of wrangling over privacy concerns in Europe.
The agreement, intended to replace a provisional accord from 2007, sets the legal conditions for the transfer of air passengers' personal data to the US Department of Homeland Security.
So-called Passenger Name Record (PNR) information is provided by travellers and collected by air carriers during reservation and check-in procedures. It includes the name, address, phone number, credit card details, travel agency data, baggage information and seat number as well as "sensitive" data -- often tied to a religious meal choice or requests for assistance due to a medical condition.
Such data is already transferred to the US authorities under a controversial 2007 accord that was rejected by the European Parliament under its expanded powers in 2010, forcing Washington and Brussels to renegotiate the deal.
Proponents of the new accord say it provides extra protection for individual freedoms.
The agreement says the data will be stored in an active data base for up to five years, though after a first six months the information is "depersonalised" -- the passenger's name is masked out.
Then it remains in a "dormant" database for an extra 15 years, requiring stricter access for US officials.
Ambassador Kennard said in a statement that PNR data has aided nearly every high profile recent terrorist investigation in the United States, including New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and David Headley, who was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack.
The EU sealed a PNR deal with Australia last year that will allow Australian authorities to store the passenger data for five and half years, and another accord is being negotiated with Canada.