Wednesday, January 31, 2007

After a U.S.-EU agreement last year, DHS can no longer automatically pull information on passengers making transatlantic trips, and it now has to ask the airlines for this information. Then, the other intelligence agencies who use the information need to get the info from DHS, rather than being fed the information through an automated system.

Now the issue on the EP agenda is the role of the Belgian organization SWIFT, which has given banking and other financial information about Europeans to the U.S. federal government. Are SWIFT's contributions to the U.S. Automated Targeting System (ATS) a breach of Europeans' privacy?

This is what will be discussed at the EP's miniplenary today. Sophie In't Veld (Dutch D66 member of EP) complains on BBC radio that the data could easily be used for purposes other than anti-terrorism (infectious diseases is on the list, for instance), and wants assurances that the data really is secure. Canada provides adequate legal protection for mistakes in its new PNR agreement with the EU, she says; so far, there are no such protections for Europeans in the U.S. Sophie says that the U.S. has stronger privacy laws than the EU, thus the EP's requests are actually of a limited nature in comparison.

Timothy Kirkhope (UK, Conservative) has said that the EP's position of trying to limit the amount of information shared with the U.S. risks obstructing U.S. access to important pieces of information that could prevent and fight terrorism.

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