back to article Passions run high in EU parliament debate over air passengers' privacy

MEPs are massively split on whether or not to hand over air passengers’ personal data to security authorities. Members of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee debated the planned PNR (passenger name record) law that would involve storing all the information collected by airlines about passengers – including …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safety first

    "Britain's police forces retain the data of all persons arrested by them for 100 years, whether or not they are ever charged with a crime or found guilty."

    Not long enough - look at all the trouble that chap has caused in the last 2000 years.

    1. smudge

      Re: Safety first

      I just checked, and it's not that bad.

      They only retain it until you are 100 years old.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Cool ...

        If I live 100 years, I can commit crimes every day, and the police will not be able to keep records of it. I can just imagine turning up in court and no-one else knowing why I am there - probably because I did not turn up last week.

        In the mean time, what happens if I lie about my age?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Safety first

      It wasnt so bad previously when only certain offences allowed for "automatic arrest", I recall reading a police promotion handbook I came across in a library and noted there was a difference where some offences were arrestable and others were not, of course the advancing police state means that now all offences are arrestable so even if you are subsequently "de-arrested" you are now on the database even though you may be totally innocent.

      Data retention is just another facet to assist the modern police (that increasingly resemble para military forces) to deepen the data trawls that seem to have taken over from real investigation. As we have seen in the past, having the data all too often doesn't help. The funny thing is that those politicians who support this all too often feel that they are due extra privacy despite being in the public arena - all paid for by us.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Wait a minute...

    Is this the same European Parliament that handed over PNR to the USA even BEFORE there was an official agreement ?

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Wait a minute...

      I think it was the European Commission, not the European Parliament, that handed over PNR to the USA.

  3. bill 36

    There is no privacy anymore

    What matters is who is allowed to do what with the data!

    I'm all for maximum security to prevent arms and explosives ever getting near an aircraft. Or anyone who is, shall we say, unstable.

    No, the real problem is that there are too many idiots out there with access to missiles that are capable of bringing a passenger aircraft down. As the Americans and Russians know very well.

    They both have recent form (last 30 years) in that respect.

  4. JaitcH

    The USA started all this crap ...

    and some of it's value to 'security' is beyond comprehension.

    Why is it necessary, for example, to record the type of meal ordered on a flight? Sure, you might tell a Muslim from a Jew but what self-respecting terrorist/Freedom Fighter wouldn't change his diet?

    A lot of the guff they collect is self-evident. For example, never buy tickets from the same Travel Agent; likewise, never buy tickets for people travelling together at the same time or place, etc.

    PAX should know the difference between Direct and Non-Stop flights; use of 'hidden cities' (see:;;, etc.

    As the article pointed out, using land transportation completely thwarts the ever curious security types - but you need to know the little tricks border guards use to ensure proper crossing procedures.Whilst the Canadian/US border has been protected for years by ground sensors (if you want to cross get very close and friendly with a animal that can carry you through a forest) many countries in other parts of the world have many unguarded crossings or small crossings that don't have computers.

    All this tracking is a waste of money and energy if there is even one hole in the system. How is Cameron going to know if you cross from France, switch small craft, then sail into Blighty? The answer is you will unlikely be detected.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: The USA started all this crap ...

      Just curious but have you forgotten about the Lockerbie bombing? THAT is the instance that started this data collection and the UK was a willing participant in providing passenger data.

      You also didn't have the kind of attacks against buildings that we did either. Flight 93? World Trade Center? Pentagon? Might make you jumpy to fly.

      Why record the meal type? Just one more piece of data to help determine intent. Did they also shave all their body hair off and wear white garments?

      No, Jaitch your comment about "one hole" in the system does not pass muster. It is not a waste of money or energy to check airline passengers data when it is so easy to fool security on the ground, get on an airplane, take it over and use it as a weapon. ANY data is helpful.

      The data is one part of a worldwide picture to tell where people have gone and what they have been up to. There is not enough caution in the world to prevent all the bad actors from causing harm. I for one think that most passengers that have been anywhere near the Middle East should be scrutinized further. One way tickets for foreign nationals without a long term visa and bought by a credit card for a known terrorist supporter are another. That info is part of the data we want from airline passengers and if you don't like it then don't come here.

      Thankfully I have US Border patrol watching the river for illegals trying to cross into the US. They try it regularly and get caught. We also have the US Coast Guard doing the same thing. Can't say the TSA is even worth the powder to blow them to hell as they can't search properly anyway. The fact remains that some information is better than none.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: The USA started all this crap ...

        Sure, US Border Patrol is very effective in stopping Mexicans illegal immigrants, and drug traffickers, isn't it? Lockerbie was a problem of being able to bring a bomb on an airplane, and you don't really need to buy a ticket for that.

        While USA had plenty of data about 9/11 attacks, but weren't able to use them properly because gathering data is easy, properly correlate and analyze them is not. The more data gathered 'just because', the more difficult analysis is. Sure, it's a great way to find data *after* an attack, when you know where to look.

        And the locked cabin doors introduced to stop terrorists allowed a suicidal pilot to kill all his passengers...

        And yes, high-speed trains allow to move around Europe without using airplanes, and, as the large number of Africans reaching Italy, Greece, Spain, entering via sea routes is not that difficult. There is also a lot of goods (and people) moved by trucks going to and from Western Europe and Turkey/Eastern Europe, another route for entering illegally.

      2. Wommit

        Re: The USA started all this crap ...

        My we are a little scared aren't we?

        Yes, we in the UK do remember Lockerby, and that troublesome day in September 2001. We also remember all of the bombings in Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. Have you every heard of them? Perhaps Europeans are not as terrified as the USA appears to be because we have had experience of fanatical terrorists before the current crop came along. Do a bit of research, lots of bombers were caught using standard police techniques during the 70's & 80's.

        The USA had been isolated from real terrorism for years, and was very rudely awoken from it's unreal sense of invulnerability. Europe has been aware of the alphabet soup of terrorist organisations for a long time.

        What happened after the Hyde Park bombing? We went about our business as usual. The culprits were hunted. Birmingham bombings, er ... same thing. Lockerby? A tragedy, but it didn't cause world changing panic. And the bomber was identified, again through standard police procedures.

        So, yes, the USA did start all of this crap. The rest of the world was very aware that changing would allow the terrorists to win. Thank you USA, they have. Your Patriot Act showed them that they'd won. Your three letter agencies are just reinforcing facts already know. Terror has won and rationality has lost.

        Now show me how many terrorists, pedophiles, or file shares that have been caught with all of this data collection (legal and otherwise.)

        It real is time that the USA grew up and grew a pair.

        1. launcap

          Re: The USA started all this crap ...

          "The USA had been isolated from real terrorism for years"..

          Apart from funding it of course. IRA? Sure - just a bunch of good ol' boys - give them money! Osama? Yeah sure - he'll kill the Russians for us! Contra rebels? Yeah sure - lets give them lots of weapons for fighting these evil commies and lets not worry too much about collateral damage.

          Hypocrites and liars the lot of them. Not that our bunch of fools in charge are any better..

      3. Graham Marsden

        @Dan Paul - Re: The USA started all this crap ...

        You sound like the sort of Merkin who argues against "Big Government" whilst *at the same time* supporting the idea of your Security Services being able to monitor everyone wherever they go and whatever they do and whoever they talk to and whatever websites they look at because that makes you feel "safer" from the big bad terrerrist bogeyman.

        Are you feeling a touch of cognitive dissonance yet?

  5. johnnymotel


    Call me one?

    "Both were rejected by the civil liberties committee and dropped, only to be resurrected and fast-tracked following a terrorist attack"

    Is it me or is it coincidence that this has been the case after almost every attack in the West since 9/11....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused, why are governments so concerned at getting all the flight information?

    "Terrorists" will just not use flights and travel by boat and car, it's not even as though they can bring anything by plane anyway to do their "Terrorist" jobs?

    So what is the real purpose of this or is this just another one of those "We've been doing it for years, lets get legal approval before someone tells everyone on the planet the NSA already has most of the worlds flight records" situations?

    Also, they already monitor email so when you get your boarding ticket they have your flight details as I found out to my surprise in my recently upgraded to Lollipop phone, I forwarded the boarding tickets to a shop to print and lo and behold my phone is telling me when my flight is taking off and how long it is to the airport without me asking it to.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can't bring anything on a plane

      'it's not even as though they can bring anything by plane anyway to do their "Terrorist" jobs'

      Of course they can. Take a flight from the UK to Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt), and you can't get much on the plane. On the way back, however, 2 litres of liquid isn't a problem. Our security theatre is worthless.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      God help me if I ever ordered drugs or weapons on the DarkNet. My tablet would be giving me regular status updates the whole damn way to my door. I wonder, would they even notice that?

  7. Alistair

    Timothy Kirkhope added: “I am still convinced of the necessity and proportionality of the instrument. The threats we face are real and we need to find solutions.”


    In other words, "We know this isn't the solution but its something we want to try"

    emphasis is of course mine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What I said while reading the article. Through enough shit against the wall and see what sticks. That the citizens of the world, let alone the nation's citizens, endlessly get splattered with it while terrorists get through smelling like a rose means nothing.

      Of course the elephant in the room is that the security services in every case to date, have known about and discounted the terrorists that actually pulled off attacks. Guess they got distracted by all those lists or when they got stuck by a needle they tossed it, stuck their finger in their mouth and looked for a different/favorite colored needle.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It won't take long

    A few more terrorists attacks and the majority of people will finally come to understand that the minimal personal info. provided by the airlines is a far better choice than a coffin. You can be ignorant and dead if you desire.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: It won't take long

      I take it you never go near any large bodies of water for fear of being shot and killed by a swimming dog carrying a loaded gun in its mouth, too? It's a higher risk than dying from a terrorist attack.

      As long as the World's governments keep dancing to the terrorists' fiddle, the terrorists have won.

      There is only one way to effectively fight terrorism.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It won't take long

      I think I'd rather die standing and on my feet than cowering in fear on my knees. To date, we're not free and not going to get any freer. The powers that be have cowering over the possibility of terrorists, etc.

      No one gets out of this life alive. The big question is "how to do you want to live it?. As AC, I think I know what your answer is....

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    How many lives saved, what cost ?

    How much has all this collection cost ? Would we have saved more lives giving that money to the NHS?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's start with some symmetry then

    Given where this idea originates, I think we should first strive to achieve balance between all by making sure that all data is exchanged so that some are not more equal than others.

    The USA is notorious for using any method at their disposal to reap data from wherever it can, but at the same time is rather reluctant to share its own. The first that needs to happen is that any country of arrival gets the exact same data the US requires for people that LEAVE the US.

    No single individual should be able to exit the US by plane without the authorities in the country where they land being able to access the same information about them as the US demands for inbound flights. That it would make a mess of extraordinary CIA rendition flights is a sacrifice they should be willing to make. Unless, of course, they have something to hide?

    I'm all for fighting crime, but as far as I can tell the US efforts are about as effective as CCTV: far better at pointing the finger afterwards than at actually *prevent* crime, and there is far too much bullshit surrounding any semblance of transparency and accountability.

  11. nilfs2

    More people die victims of reckless drivers than from terrorist attacks

    ...and yet the Yank and British gov't put all their money on preventing terrorist attacks, if they really want to save lifes, put cellphone blockers on cars, forbid car manufacturers from making vehicules that go faster than the speed limit, invest money on proper roads, road signs and keeping them in good shape, responsible driving lessons for new drivers, and lots of other things that can be done to save lifes with less money than that wasted on the army to "stop terrorism"; and don't make me start with healthy food, excersise and ilness caused by bad habits.

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