Finally, a new passenger data deal

Scott Jagow Oct 6, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Every time a plane takes off from Europe to the U.S., within minutes, the United States government knows a lot about the people on board. Credit card info, e-mail addresses, even what they might eat on the plane. Today, the U.S. and the European Union reached a new agreement on sharing this passenger data. The old deal was struck down by a European court. But this one has critics too. Sophie Int’Veld is a Dutch member of the European Parliament.

SOPHIE INT’VELD: I’m, to a certain extent, relieved that there is an agreement because having no agreement would have made matters even worse. That would have meant complete chaos and no protection whatsoever for EU citizens. But clearly in European Parliament we were not happy with the initial agreement and this one is even weaker.

JAGOW: Well what is your major beef with this deal?

INT’VELD: There are lots of things. The objections of the European Parliament, the initial objections still stand. Namely that they require a disproportionate number of data and they have not demonstrated clearly that all those data are really needed. I mean obviously they always say we need more, more, more, more. But, you know, it is for the public authorities to actually demonstrate that they need it. It is not for individual citizens to demonstrate that they’re not needed.

JAGOW: Well in this country identity theft has become a big concern and protecting private information has become a very important issue as well. How do you balance that with the concerns about terrorism?

INT’VELD: No but again I always point out that since 9/11 there have been a number of terrorist attacks in Europe, so we are as concerned as the Americans are about security but any measure will have to be proportionate, i.e. not go beyond what is needed for the purpose. As a citizen I don’t mind giving up some of my privacy if it means that I’m safer. But at the same time I need to be able to defend myself against abuse and mistakes by the public authorities and that is not the case at the moment.

JAGOW: Can you give me an example of a piece of information that you’re worried about and how it might be used?

INT’VELD: We are worried that data will be used for profiling in a negative sense. For example, a piece of information like meal preferences on board. The classic example: If somebody doesn’t want pork, then you know chances are that person is Muslim and on the basis of that, they could do profiling. There may be other information that they can link you up to, what hotel room you’ve booked and whether there’s a double bed there or not, lots of things.

JAGOW: Sophie Int’Veld’s a member of the European Parliament. She spoke to us from Amsterdam.

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