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Privacy of Passenger Data At Issue

As we go to press, a new agreement has not been reached between the EU and the U.S. on the transfer of airline passenger name records (PNR) to the U.S. government. This past May, the European Court of Justice rejected an earlier agreement between the EU and U.S. on legal grounds and set September 30th as the expiration date.

In a speech made in Tokyo, Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), commented on the possible consequences should an agreement not be reached. “The U.S. and Europe must move quickly to avoid a potential crisis over the Atlantic. Airlines should not have to decide which country’s laws to break. Failure to agree by 30 September could ground up to 105,000 travelers a day.”

In the earlier agreement implemented in 2004, European airlines were required to provide U.S. authorities access to PNR data for flights to and from the U.S. as a security measure for fighting terrorism. This data includes far more than name, passport number and address, and prompted the European parliament to criticize the agreement on the grounds that passenger privacy rights could be violated.

Last month, the European parliament voted for additional safeguards to prevent the infringement of civil liberties.

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