EU advised to annul data-sharing deal with US

Advisor argues that US counter-terrorism measure harms privacy.

airbus plane flying 88 (photo credit: )
airbus plane flying 88
(photo credit: )
An adviser to the European Union's highest court on Tuesday called for the annulment of the deal that provides US counter-terrorism authorities with information about air passengers, arguing the measure insufficiently protects privacy. Philippe Leger, the advocate general of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, sided with the European Parliament, which brought the case, and against the EU executive Commission and the Council of member states. The court follows the advice of its advocate general in about 80 percent of cases. The full judgment is expected next year. If the court annuls the deal, it would have to be renegotiated between the parties. "Advocate General Leger proposes annulment of the Commission and Council decisions on transfer to the American authorities of personal information concerning air passengers," the court said in a statement. The EU and Washington signed an agreement in May last year to exchange airline passenger data in an attempt to counter terrorist attempts. It entered into immediate effect, but the EU legislature had objections, claiming the deal failed to sufficiently protect the privacy of passengers and that the measure was disproportionate. The agreement was to last 3 years and gives US authorities access to information about passengers on flights to or from the 25 European Union countries. The information is checked against US databases to determine if any travelers are terrorist threats. It compels European airlines to turn over 34 pieces of information about each passenger, including name, address and credit card details, within 15 minutes of departure for the United States. Some sensitive items, such as meal requests that could indicate a passenger's race or religion, will either not be transferred or will be filtered out by US authorities, officials said. Washington warned that airlines would face fines and a loss of landing rights if they did not comply. US officials already had access to the information under an interim program that began in March 2003. The new agreement gave European airlines the certainty that they were not violating US or European laws by sharing their passenger data. The carriers had been caught in the middle between the US Congress - which ordered them to turn over data for flights to, from or through the United States - and the EU, which prohibits such transfers under its data protection laws. The United States cited the deal on trans-Atlantic flights as an example of the close cooperation in the fight against terrorism.