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EU Agrees to Share Air Passenger Information with USA

The European Union (EU) will sign a long-debated air passenger data transfer agreement with the United States despite opposition from the European Parliament (EP), said Jonathan Todd, a spokesman from the European Commission (EC), late last month.

The decision comes after the EC said it had secured guarantees from the U.S. government to protect the personal data of passengers flying to the U.S.

The move comes despite the European Parliament’s request in April to wait until the European Court of Justice had given its opinion on whether this deal contravenes EU data protection rules. Under the agreement, Washington is allowed to collect 34 types of data from passengers’ records, including name, address, phone number, credit cards and their traveling companions. The U.S. will store this data for three and a half years, instead of 50 years, but with the possibility to retain certain data for a longer period of time. Moreover, the U.S. will be able to pass on the data it receives to third countries, an issue which had seriously concerned EP members. If data are passed on, the U.S. will inform Brussels.

Since March 2003, airlines have faced the possibility of fines of 6,000 euros per passenger or potentially losing their landing rights in the U.S. if they failed to provide U.S. security agencies passenger data within 15 minutes of a flight’s departure.

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