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Smoothing ride westbound across the Atlantic

brussels bureau

Smoothing ride westbound across the Atlantic


A new deal between the United States and Europe on personal data from air passengers does not give U.S. law enforcement agencies automatic access but it makes getting the information easier. The European Union’s top court annulled an existing agreement after a challenge by the European Parliament, which was concerned over privacy.

The invalidated accord expired last Saturday. That created legal uncertainty, now temporarily resolved.

To be allowed to land at U.S. airports, under measures introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks, European airlines have had to pass on 34 items of data, including addresses, telephone numbers and credit card details.

EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini:

“There was a risk to be submitted to several bilateral agreements, that would be and would have been a great risk for Europe, for the security and for the privacy of European citizens because that would have reduced the level of privacy protection.”

Without direct access to data from airlines, U.S.
authorities will have to request it, a system that will be piloted before the end of this year.

Next week, EU governments should formally approve the new pact, to apply till next July.

The two sides will negotiate a long-term agreement in the meantime.

Brussels said the data would be used mainly by U.S. Homeland Security and the FBI but downplayed the significance of the CIA.

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