Airline data privacy pact closer

European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Franco Frattini said he is confident the EU and US can reach an agreement on how to handle personal information about European citizens flying to America.

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European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Franco Frattini said he is confident the European Union (EU) and the US can reach an agreement on how to handle personal information about European citizens flying to America.

Airlines flying across the Atlantic to the US must pass passenger information to American authorities under an interim agreement designed to bridge the gap between strict European data protection laws and US anti-terrorism intelligence gathering.

Without such an agreement airlines would face either being sued in Europe for handing over the data or losing their landing slots in the US if they don't share the information.

The interim agreement expires at the end of July and must be replaced. However, many European parliamentarians remain bitterly opposed to sharing the information about European citizens – some 34 facts about every European entering or transiting through America by air, including credit-card details and information about how and where a plane ticket was purchased.

An agreement between the EU and the US, however, can be reached ahead of the July deadline, Frattini said Monday.

"We are now trying to define remaining problems with the US authorities including the length of procedures, the length of data retention times and other technicalities," Frattini said, adding that he is "confident we'll get a final solution that is acceptable to both the US and the EU as a whole."

Michael Chertoff, the US secretary for homeland security, was in Brussels Monday to try to persuade sceptical European lawmakers of the need to share the information.

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