Passenger Screening & Privacy in Transportation Security
Following the 9/11 attacks, the US recognized the importance of preemptively screening all airline passengers and created the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. It states that airlines must provide Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with each passenger name record (PNR) in an attempt to prescreen the travelers entering and flying within the US. These new requirements were met with some resistance by other nations, including the European Union (EU).
US-European Union PNR Agreement
Under the EU’s privacy directive, personal information originating from within EU Member States may not be transferred to nations that do not provide adequate privacy protection. The EU has asserted that PNR data access infringes upon the EU's privacy directive and exposes air carriers to punishing lawsuits and fines.
Negotiations between the US and the European Commission (EC) led to the creation of The US-EU PNR Agreement of 17 May 2004. This Agreement has faced many obstacles, one of which is that the EC did not consult the European Parliament nor the European Courts when they decided that it held sufficient measures to ensure the privacy of the personal data. In a statement on 30 May 2006, the European Parliament annulled the agreement of 2004 on the basis that the EC acted above their delegated powers and infringed upon the personal rights of EU passengers. They also found that CBP could not adequately secure the PNR data.
Upon this announcement, the US and the EU began work on a temporary plan to maintain the transfer of data to the US that meets the security needs of the US and the privacy requirements of the EU. This agreement was signed on 26 July 2007.
The Future of Passenger Screening
Both sides made compromises. Some of the data privacy concessions that DHS made included transitioning from a “pull” to a “push” PNR data transmitting system, and the EU conceded on length of time data is retained by DHS. While there are still concerns from the EU over how the data is shared and used, this is an important step in establishing the kind of cooperative relationships that are necessary to secure the global transportation system.