EU parliamentarians speak out over gag order on data deal

Members of the European Parliament say the new EU-US deal poses great civil liberties threats

A leading Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has said that she will not be silenced on the shortcomings of a new deal to pass European airline travelers' information to the United States.

Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld made the comments on Friday after the European Commission issued a press release extolling the virtues of the Passenger Name Register (PNR) agreement. Parliamentarians have been banned from talking about the content of the deal or making notes on the document and may only read it in a "sealed room."

In't Veld believes this is ridiculous. "This is highly unfortunate. MEPs can read it, but citizens should also have access to what is decided about their rights. I don't feel particularly bound to any confidentiality, especially as the Commission has been making public statements, why should I be quiet about it? The whole situation is not very confidence inspiring," she said.

Others in the Parliament have described the state of affairs as "absurd." The Commissioner responsible for the negotiations, Cecilia Malmström, only briefed Parliamentary representatives on Tuesday -- almost a full week after she spoke with a German newspaper. "Even at that meeting, the Commission only distributed copies of the articles Malmström likes to present as improvements, not the whole text of the agreement," said a Parliament source.

The agreement would require airlines to send information -- including telephone numbers, email addresses and even credit card data -- about passengers to the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. This information would then be stored for up to 15 years. The Commission claims the latest text is "privacy-friendly" as the data will be de-personalized after six months and moved to a 'dormant database' after five years.

But this has not persuaded many MEPs. "The 'new EU-US PNR' agreement presented is nothing more than a repackaging of the old agreement and fails to address the fundamental rights concerns repeatedly raised by the European Parliament and various European courts. They have tried to make it look better, but have only made cosmetic changes. The substance of blanket data retention has remained. The Commission also paid for these changes with concessions to the U.S. and there is now widened scope on border checks," said German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht.

In his opinion, the agreement still violates E.U. data privacy rules and could come up against opposition from constitutional courts in member states. "Even if they say personal data will be 'anonymized' after six months, the U.S. still keeps all the records for 15 years. This goes way beyond what is allowed by the E.U. treaties. I think it likely that Germany may block the deal as it violates fundament rights. When looking at transposing the Data Retention Directive, the German Constitutional Court ruled that even six months blanket retention is not compatible with German law. So when it comes to 15 years, there could be a major problem between the German court and the E.U. legislator. And I think other member states will have trouble with it too," continued Albrecht.

Despite widely held concerns among MEPs and civil liberties groups, such as EDRi, the European Parliament is nonetheless likely to pass the latest text. There is little public awareness about the issue and the two biggest groups will probably vote for it to avoid any trans-Atlantic bad feeling, said Albrecht. However, he and In't Veld stressed that this is a big civil liberties issue as citizens have the right to know what is being done with their information and the new text still raises many privacy concerns.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags regulationsecuritylegislationgovernmentprivacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?