The US-EU spying scandal could stir up a hornets nest for the aviation industry regarding passenger data sharing if the allegations are proved to be correct.
The German report in ‘Der Spiegel’ suggested that the US’s NSA have targeted the EU with its spying activities. Concerns have been raised and an investigation is underway, with demands from Green Party Leaders to cancel the transfer of passenger data, in the form of Passenger Name Records (PNR), which include such information as passenger name, address details, destination and baggage, payment details and travel itinerary.
Arguably, the provision of PNR and Advance Passenger Information (API), now mandatory for US flights, has considerably reduced the risk of terrorist activity. Since 9/11, understandable concerns became obvious and, after a thorough investigation, the provision of passenger data enables government bodies to screen passengers before boarding the aircraft, thus highlighting possible ‘high-risk’ passengers while streamlining the service for ‘low-risk’ passengers.
Many believe that PNR and API passenger data exchange is a necessary procedure for all aviation travel, business or commercial, inter-state or Trans-Atlantic, to enhance security measures. A secure, reliable passenger data sharing service can offer reassurance to the aviation passenger, the airline and to border control and immigration services.
Where should the line be drawn when it comes to security?
Aviation communications providers work hard to ensure secure, efficient and fast delivery of PNR and API to appropriate government agencies, but, the trouble is that it is not clear how the governments are dealing with the passenger data once it has been ‘used’ for its purpose.
The agreement is that the passenger data is anonymized after five years. After six months the passenger name is removed and the passenger data is stored securely. The PNR itself is only scrutinized if the passenger is ‘flagged’ as risky.
No doubt the debate will continue, certainly with the media frenzy continuing over Edward Snowden, the NSA ‘whistle-blower’!