EU, U.S. Strike Air Passenger Data Deal

Under a revised agreement, more U.S. government agencies will get more easily accessible data and Washington vows to respect privacy safeguards

The EU has agreed to provide information on air passengers flying from Europe to more US government agencies and more quickly, in a revised agreement adopted on Friday (6 October).

Under the new terms, European airlines will continue to transfer 34 types of data about passengers - such as addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers - to Washington but they will apply a new mechanism to do so.

US authorities previously had to actively look for the information they needed from the airlines' computer systems but under the new agreement the data will be much more easily accessible.

Also, the information on passengers will be available to more US counter-terrorism agencies, as a result of the revised deal. But EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said that their access to EU data would not be unconditional.

Part of the EU-US agreement on the transfer of air data are a number of privacy protection safeguards that Washington has said it will respect.

Some deputies in the European Parliament are expected to criticise the deal, with green MEP Cem Ozdemir commenting "It is disturbing that the EU capitulated to US demands to allow more agencies access the data."

The deal - hammered out after a 9-hour videoconference between the US and EU officials last night and supported by EU member states - comes one week after the official deadline set by the European Court of Justice in May.

The court had ruled the previous air data agreement illegal, with European airlines left in a legal limbo after the two negotiating parties missed the end of September deadline the judges had set for its revision.

The talks got complicated as the EU insisted it would agree only with the formal modifications on the legal basis of the agreement, but the US pressed for changes in the content of the rules tabled as part of the post September 2001 anti-terrorist measures.

The new accord will expire at the end of July 2007 after which a permanent agreement is to be introduced.

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