MEPs back EU system to protect Passenger Name Records

Draft EU rules on sharing and protecting the Passenger Name Record (PNR) data of people flying to or from the EU, and its use by member states and Europol to fight terrorism and serious transnational crime, were approved by the Civil Liberties Committee last week.

PNR data is information provided by passengers and collected by airlines during booking and check-in, and must only be used to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute these crimes, said MEPs, inserting safeguards to ensure “the lawfulness of any storage, analysis, transfer and use of PNR data”.

“Without this EU system in place a number of EU governments will go it alone and create their own systems. That would leave gaps in the net and create a patchwork approach to data protection. With one EU-wide system, we can close the net and ensure high standards of data protection and proportionality are applied right across Europe. The emerging threat posed by so-called ‘foreign fighters’ has made this system even more essential”, said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK).

“PNR is not a ‘silver bullet’ but it can be an invaluable weapon in the armoury. We will now open talks with national governments with a view to reaching a final agreement before the end of the year”, he added.

The new PNR rules cover only flights to and from the EU and would apply to air carriers and non-carriers such as travel agencies and tour operators operating “international flights”, i.e. those to or from the EU; not “intra-EU” flights between EU member states.

Under the amended rules, PNR data could be processed “only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and certain types of serious transnational crime”. The list approved by MEPs includes, for example, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of children, drug trafficking, trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives, money laundering and cybercrime.

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