EU-US air passenger data exchange scrapped

A controversial deal between Brussels and Washington to hand over full passenger details on flights between EU countries and the US was thrown out by European Court judges today.









The information was demanded by the Americans as a security measure in the wake of the terrorist attacks in September 2001.

But it was opposed by many Euro-MPs as a flagrant breach of privacy laws.

Now the European Court of Justice has backed the Euro-MPs and scrapped the "Passenger Name Records" (PNR) system which is already in operation.

The judges said the agreement with the US had to be annulled because existing EU data protection law only covers commercial data, not that used for security purposes.

The judges said the system should continue until the end of September "for reasons of legal certainty and in order to protect the persons concerned",

But then it had to be annulled because existing EU data protection law only covers commercial data, not that used for security purposes.

Liberal Democrat leader in the European Parliament Graham Watson, who led the campaign against the legislation, welcomed the result:

"The response to 9/11 has been costly, both to the taxpayer and to individual freedom. It has made us little, if any, safer.

"Today's judgment vindicates the four-year campaign that I and my colleagues led in the European Parliament to protect the privacy of airline passengers."

Fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford said: "The Commission and Council (EU governments) are hoist with their own petard.

"The European Parliament has been arguing for years for adequate safeguards when data is transferred in the police and intelligence field.

"Our victory in this case demonstrates the refusal of MEPs to buckle in the face of transatlantic bullying, and to challenge 'security' proposals which undermine the legitimate interests of the citizens we are elected to represent."

She said MEPs would now be alert for any Washington attempts to replace the EU-wide data processing deal with a series of bilateral deals with national authorities "with similarly inadequate safeguards against misuse of personal data."

Today's ruling made clear that the transfer of private data on individuals for security reasons was not covered by EU rules on "data processing" as part of the supply of commercial services - such as information on individuals necessarily held by airlines when people bought travel tickets.

EU data protection rules excluded from their scope "processing operations concerning public security, defence, State security and the activities of the State in areas of criminal law."

And the "data processing" in question in the EU-US deal was clearly on security grounds, as set out by the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The deal on "processing and transfer of personal data" on transatlantic flights was backed by EU governments and the European Commission.

It meant complying with US anti-terrorist legislation requiring that all airlines operating flights to, from or across American territory provide the US authorities with electronic access to all passenger data in their reservation and departure control systems.

Concern about a conflict with EU privacy laws led to protracted negotiations, ending in May 2004 when the Commission said it was satisfied with restrictions imposed on the use of the information by the CBP.

Euro-MPs then challenged it, arguing that fundamental rights were being infringed and that there was no legal basis in EU law or supplying such detailed information.

The judges emphasised today that EU law on data protection included a full commitment to supporting the US in the fight against terrorism "within the limits imposed by Community law".

Washington had warned that failure to agree a deal on passenger data would mean prolonged delays for air passenger from Europe, as more processing would be required on arrival in America.

And the court decision almost certainly means more queues and long hold-ups for Europeans at American airports once the current system is scrapped at the end of September.



The fact that the verdict was based on a legal argument about the scope of EU data protection laws paves the way for a possible attempt to negotiate a similar, but "intergovernmental" EU deal with the US.

That would mean any passenger data transfer agreement would not be subject to the current restrictions of the EU rules identified by the judges today.

And the verdict could pose a big headache for individual European airlines. They could face the threat of sanctions from Washington if they refuse to cooperate with the US electronic passenger information requirements - and sanctions from their national data protection authorities if they do.

The European Parliament's assault on the legislation was far from unanimous - in a vote in March 2004, MEPs threatened by 229-202 to take the issue to the European Court.

The UK Government was ordered to pay its own costs today because the UK opted to support as a named individual country the defence mounted against the Euro-MPs' case by the European Commission and by the 25 EU governments acting as the Council of Ministers.



News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Contact Centre Sales - £100,000 OTE

£35000 - £50000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: After a highly successful 2014, a m...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Account Manager / Telesales - £24,000 OTE

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Strong telesales or retail expe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Recruitment Genius: Chief Engineer

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chief Engineer is required to...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?