Details of all travellers who enter or leave Europe may be collected and shared if new proposals on passenger name records (PNR) are passed by the European Council.
Officials are drafting plans that aim to allow EU governments to collect, store and share details about all users of scheduled transport in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.
Governments already collect and share airline passenger details such as number and type of travel document, nationality, names, date of birth, points of embarkation and entry under the Advance Passenger Information (API) sent to them by airlines.
The latest draft promises to add to the amount of information collected and cover all transport types.
The information collected would be sufficient only for identifying known terrorists and criminals, according to EU documents.
"Passenger Name Record data contains more data elements and are available in advance of Advanced Passenger Information data. Such data elements are a very important tool for carrying out risk assessments of the passengers, for obtaining intelligence and for making associations between known and unknown people."
A covering memo said receiving the data electronically well in advance (48 hours before departure), would allow the authorities to process it more quickly than manual systems. "Identifying unknown high risk passengers allows for secondary screening upon their arrival and further questioning by security officers," it said.
The UK, France and Denmark have already enacted primary legislation for the capture and use of passenger data, and are in the process of considering secondary legislation to implement national PNR systems.
The European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx, has condemned previous data gathering proposals as offering too little protection to citizens against abuse by authorities.
Statewatch, a civil liberties publication, said the scheme would cover all air passenger between the EU and third states, but a large number of delegations supported the idea that it would extend to other modes of transport, as the UK has already done.
According to Statewatch, the proposal requires airlines and possibly other travel suppliers to "push" data to Passenger Information Units (PIUs) that would be set up to manage the collection, processing, storage and transmission of PNR data.
There would be two transmissions: one of people booked in would be sent 48 hours before take-off, the other when flight was closed and all had boarded.
A recent report by the US National Research Council found that data mining has limited value in the search for terrorists.