European Parliament Delays Vote on Sharing Passenger Data with US Authorities

Concerns about the NSA's Prism data collection system prompted the delay, some EU parliamentarians say

European Union lawmakers have delayed a vote on what authorities can do with airline passengers' data following the revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency's Prism data collection system.

The European Parliament had been scheduled to vote on Monday on whether to allow authorities investigating serious crimes and terrorist offences to access E.U. airlines' passenger name register (PNR) data, which includes personal information such as addresses or credit card details.

However, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to refer the matter back to the parliament's civil liberties and justice (LIBE) committee for a further review, following a request by British MEP Tim Kirkhope.

Kirkhope cited "technical reasons" for the request, but some politicians argued that the motivation was political.

"Referring the anticipated decision on the draft E.U. PNR system back to the civil liberties committee is a cynical act of chicanery," said German MEP, Jan Philipp Albrecht. "The concerns with the proposed system have not in any way diminished. If anything, with the latest revelations about U.S. infringement of the privacy rights of European citizens, we should be even more cautious about establishing more data grabbing and profiling systems," he said in a statement.

An agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. allows U.S. authorities to use PNR data collected by airlines about passengers traveling between Europe and the U.S. to target, identify and prevent potential terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country.

The European Commission had proposed a similar scheme for passengers traveling within the E.U., but due to concerns about its disproportionate and far-reaching nature, the LIBE committee rejected the proposed text by 30 votes to 25.

"The rules proposed by the Commission for storing the private data of air passengers would involve far-reaching data retention and profiling measures. There is no evidence to suggest this ever-creeping data grab would do anything to achieve the stated aim of ensuring greater security. Instead, it compromises E.U. citizens' privacy and civil liberties,"said Albrecht.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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