We saw it coming miles away: the Russians will start collecting your travel data from July 1st onwards. Like the US, Australia and Canada, Russia will oblige air carriers to transfer their PNR (Passenger Name Records) to the Russian authorities. The European Commission is crying big crocodile tears that they had not been informed by the Russian government, but that is ingenuous, as everyone who wanted to know, knew. Now personal data of Europeans will be transferred to the Russian authorities without any legal safeguards, and carriers are – once again – left in limbo, exposed to legal challenge.
Non-EU countries can determine their own policies, so the EU cannot stop the Russians (or anyone else) from requiring carriers to transfer PNR data. But the EU Commission has a duty to ensure that EU citizens get full legal protection and carriers get legal certainty. By stubbornly ignoring all the signals that Russians wanted to use PNR data, the Commission has once again failed to protect European citizens and European companies.
In view of the erosion of democracy and the rule of law, and particularly in view of the government crackdown on “foreign” NGOs, the massive collection of personal data without any adequate legal framework is extremely worrying.
The EU has concluded agreements with Australia and the US, providing the legal basis for the transfer of PNR data. The Parliament endorsed both agreements, although the agreement with the US was considered wholly inadequate by a substantial minority of Parliament, including myself as rapporteur. Throughout the debates we warned about setting a very dangerous precedent. The agreement with Canada has lapsed (although the Commission does not acknowledge this fact either), but to date the Commission has failed to secure a new, better agreement. For unclear reasons talks with the Canadians have dragged out for years and years.
The Commission should come before the European Parliament urgently, explain the situation and possible solutions. We know that several other countries, not all considered to be mature democracies, are currently setting up systems for the massive collection and storage of PNR data as well. In recent years we have asked the European Commission over and over again about their approach to those countries, but so far the Commission remained in a state of denial. Now is the time for answers. Who is next? China? Saudi Arabia?
My written questions to the EC on Russia and other third countries applying Passenger Name Records Systems.