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Don't use Charlie Hebdo to justify Big Brother data-slurp – Data protection MEP

Plans to monitor all flight passengers should be ditched

The European Parliament’s data protection supremo says calls from national leaders to monitor all airline passengers are “playing into terrorists' hands”.

German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who heads the Parliament’s overhaul of EU data protection laws, described the plans for mass storage of PNR (passenger name record) data as Orwellian.

“EU home affairs ministers are demanding Big Brother measures entailing blanket data retention without justification,” he said. “This approach is a distraction from the actual measures needed to deal with security and terrorist threats and provides a false sense of security for citizens, at the expense of their civil liberties.”

According to Albrecht, the scheme is actually illegal, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last April that the mass storage of private data, without specific grounds or time limit, is contrary to the EU charter of fundamental rights.

The EU already operates a PNR (Passenger Name Record) data-sharing scheme with the United States, transferring data held by airlines on their passengers - including email address, phone number and credit cards details as well as information about flights entering and exiting the EU. In 2011 the European Commission proposed a similar scheme for flights within the EU.

The proposal was shot down by the Parliament and has been on hold for two years. However, notwithstanding the ECJ position on blanket data retention, many EU leaders, including the head of the European Council Donald Tusk, have called for the plan to be revived in light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Albrecht says this is the wrong approach. “Far-reaching data collection in France would not have prevented the odious attacks in Paris. As with previous attacks, the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were already known to security authorities and had been the subject of investigations and supervision measures.

"Instead of creating an ineffective dragnet on all air passengers, security authorities should have been exchanging the data they already had on these suspects,” he said. ®

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