Collecting air passenger data, fighting terrorist’s Internet propaganda, and rapid information exchange on any stolen explosives or components: these are the three main ideas in a newly- proposed EU security package, presented today by Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini. More security, he argues, doesn’t necessarily mean less freedom: “Right to security is in itself a fundamental right, because it is first of all a right to life. So I don’t see a contradiction between protecting security, which means protecting people’s lives, and protecting the other fundamental rights of individuals.”
However, the collection of passenger data worries many. Among them is Baroness Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal democrat member of the European Parliament: “The danger is that either they make assumptions about you, on the basis of your behaviour, or the way you travelled in the past, that could create a wrong idea about you, and you possibly get flagged for life, as someone of concern, and that could follow you down the years, if you’re not able to know what that information is, and be able to correct it.”
Airline operators, if the package is approved, will have to transmit to the concerned authorities 19 categories of personal data, like travellers’ names, addresses, e-mails, phone numbers, credit card numbers and routes flown. This measure would apply to all flights, except for internal ones within the EU.
Something more also has to be done on the Internet, even if “extra-territoriality” makes it hard, the Commission says. The proposal enlarges the list of acts considered as terror-related offences, adding “public provocation to commit a terrorist offence”, “recruitment” and “training for terrorism”.
The newly-appointed EU anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove underlined, just yesterday, the misuse of the Internet by terrorists: “Radical and extremist Islamic propaganda distributed in Europe continues to feed off events happening outside Europe. The Internet is one media outlet, perhaps the essential media outlet for this propaganda.”
Finally, there is an immediate alert system for any stolen explosives or components, which should make it easier to prevent their use: that is why the Commission also proposes a European explosives database, to prevent, for example, dynamite stolen in one country being used in another.