EU and US Reach Interim Agreement on Airline Passenger Data Collection

IMPORTANT: The full content of this page is available to premium users only.

Sunday, June 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On March 4, 2003, the European Commission and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office agreed to some additional promises on an interim February 18, 2003 joint statement permitting European and U.S. airlines to transmit passenger data on trans-Atlantic flights form the European Union countries that both meets U.S. and EU legal requirements. The interim agreement was achieved on the eve of the deadline under the U.S. Aviation and Transportation Security Act that requires airlines to provide information to the U.S. Customs for purposes of counter-terrorism and all serious criminal offense. A new agreement made on March 4, 2003, between the European Commission and U.S. Customs would make medical, ethnic and religious information available to U.S. law enforcement. The CBP has undertaken not to use sensitive data to identify potential passengers. In addition, the U.S. Protection examination and to introduce a special filter to further protect such data. The European commission announced that any use or transfers of such sensitive passenger data information would be limited to the purposes of preventing and combating terrorism and other serious criminal offenses. Further, it will be subject to a specific approval procedure, including the U.S. Deputy Commissioner of Customs and border Protection. The airlines were in a dilemma prior to the achievement of the agreement. If they did to comply with the new act, they faced potential fines of $10,000 a flight. Simultaneously, if they had provided the data without an EU-US agreement, they would have been subject to fines for potential violations of the EU data protection laws. To finalize the interim agreement, will issue a decree stating that U.S. custom authority guarantees fulfill the terms of the EU data protection law. Subsequent to the decree, EU member states must approve the Commission’s assessment. Simultaneously the Commission must hold consultations with the European Parliament.