Vive Le Canada

Transatlantic relations and data protection: a never-ending story?
Date: Wednesday, March 28 2007

Transatlantic relations and data protection: a never-ending story?
2007-03-27 14:08

Over five years after the "9/11" attacks in New York, views still differ across the Atlantic on how best to fight terrorism without jeopardising human rights. Does the fight against terrorism really require transatlantic transfers of air passengers' personal data, or of the data required for international banking transactions? And if so, are these data adequately protected? asked MEPs and experts on Monday.

Politicians, experts and NGO representatives agreed on Monday that even years after these transfers to the US administration took place, it is still unclear whether such personal data were really indispensable for catching terrorists. Neither the Council nor the Commission, or even the US administration, have since offered any figures to demonstrate the effectiveness of processing billions of personal data on European citizens and others, MEPs complained.

“Some in the US seem to be thinking that the legitimate goal to fight terrorism justifies all means, but many people in the EU appear to think the contrary”, said Civil Liberties Committee Vice-Chairman Stavros Lambrinidis (PES, EL), who chaired the public hearing on facts and laws governing the transfer of air passenger name record (PNR) data, financial transfer data (SWIFT case) and data exchanged between private parties ("safe harbour" data protection principles).

Mr Lambrinidis wondered whether the sole purpose of collecting data was to fight terrorism. “You cannot break data protection rights except when the measure is proven to be necessary, proportionate and appropriate”, he explained. So far, there has been only one review of the first PNR agreement with the US, and there should at least be a second review of the system's current effectiveness before the new PNR agreement is signed in July, he said.

Hearing documents at:

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on March 28, 2007]


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