EU Calls for Revisions to Airline Passenger Data-Sharing Agreement

    Oct 11, 2016

    The advocate general of the European Court of Justice issued an opinion on September 8 stating that a provisional agreement between the European Union (EU) and Canada on the transfer and retention of airline passenger data violates the privacy rights of EU citizens. The opinion is non-binding, but it is expected to be highly influential with the court, which is reviewing the draft accord at the request of the European Parliament to determine if it complies with EU data protection rules and has the correct legal basis.

    The draft passenger name record (PNR) agreement, which was signed in June 2014, allows for the sharing of information for the purposes of fighting terrorism and serious crime. According to the opinion, the PNR agreement violates the privacy rights contained in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights because it would allow Canada to process sensitive data from EU data subjects. In addition, it would confer on Canada the right to:

    • Make disclosure of information beyond what is strictly necessary
    • Allow for the retention of PNR data for up to five years without it being in connection with the stated purposes of the agreement
    • Allow data to be transferred to a public authority in a third country without assurances that it will not be transferred to another third country

    In a press release announcing the opinion, the court stated: “It is necessary that, at a time when modern technology allows public authorities, in the name of combating terrorism and serious transnational crime, to develop extremely sophisticated methods of monitoring the private life of individuals and analysing their personal data, the Court should ensure that the proposed measures, even when they take the form of envisaged international agreements, reflect a fair balance between the legitimate desire to maintain public security and the equally fundamental right for everyone to be able to enjoy a high level of protection of his private life and his own data.”

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