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    Britain Fights for Expanded Air Passenger Data Storage

    Apr 19, 2011
    Britain Home Secretary Theresa May is trying to set up an EU-wide network of travel databases to record the movements and personal details of millions of air passengers within Europe. According to a Guardian article, May was elected on a pledge to scale back the "database state," and has been lobbying for passenger name records (PNR) data to be collected for flights within Europe, tripling the number of journeys tracked.

    Britain Home Secretary Theresa May is trying to set up an EU-wide network of travel databases to record the movements and personal details of millions of air passengers within Europe. According to a Guardian article, May was elected on a pledge to scale back the "database state," and has been lobbying for passenger name records (PNR) data to be collected for flights within Europe, tripling the number of journeys tracked.

    May has expressed that the directive is needed to combat terrorism and wants the data to be stored for up to six years. The article noted that May has already won backing for the directive from 17 other EU member states, but is heading for a civil liberties clash with the European Parliament and the German government.

    According to the article, critics say the directive will involve the storage of a huge amount of personal data, leaving room for random profiling. PNR data is already collected for flights between Europe and America, with the airlines required to pass on passenger booking details to authorities.

    The article stated that Britain has not decided whether it will opt into the PNR EU directive and is claiming the directive is inadequate.

    Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP, said the directive would never get through the European Parliament. "This is a crazy proposal. A huge amount of data on EU citizens will be retained daily, without having any concrete investigations, leaving room for random profiling and data mining," Albrecht said. Albrecht’s views are shared by the German government, which has been very vocal in its opposition to increased data sharing.

    According to the article, Immigration Minister Damian Green has accused the EU commission of not taking internal European border security seriously for opposing the extension of PNR to flights within Europe.

    In a letter to the Hungarian interior minister, May stated that an EU-wide system that includes all intra-EU flights must be urgently adopted. According to the article, May wrote that excluding them "would rule out three-quarters of all flights that take off or land at EU airports." May continued, "That is not right. It would be a shame if, having taken the decision to have a PNR system, we missed the opportunity to do the job properly."

    May suggested that the costs involved could be reduced if each member state selected "high-risk" routes to collect passenger data, rather than seeking to cover all flights. Each EU member state would hold a database of passenger details but would be able share the data with any other member to form a European-wide network.

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