The European Parliament has voted to approve a deal with the U.S. over passenger name records, setting the stage for European Justice and Home Affairs ministers to endorse the accord on April 26,
The issue has been contentious as the U.S. has pushed for access to information and the European Union expressed concerns about data privacy. The U.S. issued PNR requirements in 2007, but in 2010 the EU Parliament refused to vote on the issue, calling on the European Commission to work out a new deal.
The new agreement was approved April 19 with 409 members in favor, 226 voting against and 33 abstaining. Opponents of the deal still concerned about data protection wanted the issue referred to the European Court of Justice, but that motion was voted down.
The outcome was a setback for Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of parliament from the Social Liberal party who acted as the legislature’s rapporteur on the issue. She withdrew her name from the report, saying, “The decision of the European Parliament does not reflect my recommendation. Therefore I choose to distance myself from it. It is disappointing that after nine years negotiating with our closest friends and allies, the U.S., we only got an agreement that gets reluctant support from a divided House.”
Under the new arrangement, the U.S. will store PNR data for up to five years. However, six months after a flight takes place, the record will be depersonalized. Afterward, data will still be stored for up to 10 more years in a “dormant database” and then deleted. Only PNR data being reviewed actively can be retained.
The EU notes that “sensitive data, such as those revealing the ethnic origin, religious beliefs, physical or mental health or sexual orientation of a passenger, could be used in exceptional circumstances when a person’s life is at risk.” However, it adds that “this data will be accessed only case-by-case and will be permanently deleted after 30 days from receipt, unless it is used for a specific investigation.”
Travelers can tap their data, seek changes through the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security and mount a legal challenge through the U.S. court system.