Passenger data transfer to US is against EU laws, say privacy groups

A coalition of European privacy groups started a campaign this week to stop the transfer of airline passenger data to US...

A coalition of European privacy groups started a campaign this week to stop the transfer of airline passenger data to US authorities.

"There are no safeguards or restrictions on these data transfers," said Maurice Wessling, president of the European Digital Rights (EDRI) privacy coalition which represents 10 privacy and civil rights groups from seven EU countries.

The agreement, between the European Commission (EC) and the US Customs and Border Protection agency last March, agreed to hand over online access to data from all Europe-based carriers that fly to, from or through the US.

The agreement was a result of US efforts to tighten security following the terrorist attacks in 2001 and in the wake of the passing of the US Aviation and Transport Security Act.

The problem, according to the privacy groups, is that the data transfer agreement goes against privacy laws requiring that transfer of data outside of the EU only take place when there is a similar level of privacy protection put in place.

The civil rights advocates claim that there are no limits on the sharing or retention of the data among US agencies and therefore passengers' rights are affected.

EDRI hoped to make airline passengers aware of the data transfer and encourage them to write the EC with complaints. The EC could then investigate the complaints and rule that there is no legal basis for the transfers, according to Wessling.

According to the US-based privacy group the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic), the EC is negotiating with the US to restrict some access to passenger data in an effort to protect citizens' privacy.

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