Airline in limbo over passenger data

Airlines are in limbo over the controversial transfer of passenger data to US government authorities following the breakdown of talks between European Union and US negotiators.

Airlines are in limbo over the controversial transfer of passenger data to US government authorities following the breakdown of talks between European Union and US negotiators.

An agreement to hand over passenger data made between the EU and the US had seen airlines providing data – including names, addresses, forms of payment, contact phone numbers and other details - on passengers flying to the US from Europe.

But in May, the European Court of Justice ruled that there was not “an appropriate legal basis” either for the agreement to hand over the information, or for a European Commission’s finding that the data was adequately protected by the US. Fundamental data protection rights had “been infringed”, it said.

The court gave the EU and US a 30 September deadline to make new arrangements – a deadline that has now expired without agreement.

Without a new agreement, airlines that hand passenger details to the US could face legal action in Europe for breach of EU privacy rules. But refusal to pass on the information could see planes denied permission to land in the US.

EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said he hoped to be able to conclude a new deal with the US this Friday, during talks with homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. The two sides were “very close” to an agreement, although the EU was seeking formal reassurances from the US on the level of data protection, he said.

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