The EU PNR transmission directive is in the news again, as EU parliament members are accused of ‘playing games’.
Earlier this year, the plans for the introduction of the EU PNR Directive continued to be hotly debated, yet the final drafts were agreed for the vote in the European Parliament. It has been announced that the plans are now subject to further delays following a mass vote against the initiative.
The announcement has created frustration amongst the lawmakers in Europe, who are eager to put an official plan in place to introduce what they are referring to as a ‘critical counter-terrorism tool’.
The controversy has arisen again around the breach of privacy of an individual’s personal information, as PNR data will be retained for airlines for five years, the first six months of which will retain personal identifying data.
This is not to say that information will be accessible by the public, but rather by a specially-created regulating body, specifically detailed to handle the sensitive information.
Passenger Name Records have been in existence for many years, originally being used to assist interlining passengers with baggage transfers. The new directive aims to use PNR information in a similar way to Advance Passenger Information, which is used to screen passengers in advance of international travel.
David Cameron has urged the European Parliament to approve a directive to enable Passenger Name Record (PNR) data sharing across the EU nations. The deal, which was agreed in principle last month, will, according to the UK Prime Minister, provide an ‘important tool in combatting terrorism and serious crime’.
PNR data contains passenger flight details such as names, seat numbers, ticket payment information and flight dates. Passenger data exchange is securely transmitted and permitted for use only for security purposes.
The global aviation security sector has experienced a huge change over the past couple of decades, and has significantly strengthened since the tragic events of 9/11.
As countries around the world take on board the seriousness of security in airports and in particular, the provision of passenger data, the market for increasingly sophisticated systems has inevitably grown.
The advancements in technology for border control and passenger processing are simply staggering, and according to Technavio, leading technology analysts, in their recent report, the passenger screening systems market will grow at a CAGR rate of 4.02% in the five-year period between 2014 and 2019.
A new proposal put to Brussels this week has sparked controversy once again with advocates of privacy in the EU. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the Brussels Jewish Museum shootings last year, the European security services have stepped up measures to detect travellers joining or returning from war in Syria and Iraq and feel that sharing airline passenger data, via Passenger Name Records (PNR) or a system similar to that in place between Europe and the U.S. in the form of Advance Passenger Information (API) would be a step closer to helping to achieve their goal.
Access to personal information across the EU by the intelligence services remains in fierce debate, particularly in countries such as Germany, who were outraged over the accusations of mass surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies after the attacks of 9/11.
Jan Albreicht, German member of the European Parliament said, “We need to deliver whatever is necessary and proportionate to get a higher level of security. But what you are proposing now, the proposal of blanket mass surveillance of citizens, is exactly the opposite of that. It’s not delivering that.”
Anti-terror measures have become a security priority for the EU and passenger data sharing is at the top of the list in terms of monitoring the movements of suspected high-risk travellers.
Timothy Kirkhope, British member of the European Parliament said, “We need now to make sure we have enough information to look at patterns of behaviour. That is the basis on which we can find criminals and find terrorists in order to protect our citizens. Stop things happening such as the atrocities in Paris recently.”
Canada is forging ahead in a bid to increase the safety of airline passengers, aircraft and crew. Bill C-51, known as Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, is to be tackled in two parts:
- Security of Canada Information Sharing Act
- Secure Air Travel Act
If passed, the current Passenger Protection Program would be enhanced with greater transparency for the sharing of passenger data in a similar system to that used in the U.S. in the transmission of Advance Passenger Information (API). API transmission before a flight leaves for its destination, can allow government agencies to scan passenger data and achieve early alert when comparison is made to a ‘do-not-fly’ list or similarly, a list containing the names of potential terrorists, members of high-risk political or radical groups – a ‘Persons of Interest’ list.
Opposers of the scheme argue that concerns should be raised when information sharing is discussed. It is by no means decided at this stage the grounds on which a person will be placed upon such lists and the government of Canada propose to lower the threshold and expand the grounds on which a person becomes ‘specified’ under the Passenger Protection Program.
The debate continues.
UAE passengers bound for the U.S. will be able to enjoy immigration pre-clearance from this week, avoiding queues on arrival by undertaking immigration, customs and agriculture inspections at terminal three of Abu Dhabi airport where U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) facilities are in place.
Conditional requirements will be the provision of Advance Passenger Information and an individual, machine-readable passport. In addition, passengers must also produce a return or onward ticket for departure from the U.S. within a 90-day window of departure.
For passengers of Etihad Airways flying to New York JFK, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas, the service will be available from January 15. The facility is currently available in six other countries and 15 airports outside North America.
Five airports across India have implemented an Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) in a bid to bring a halt to the smuggling problem by keeping track of ‘suspicious’ passengers.
Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports now have fully operational APIS implementation, effectively beginning the creation of the electronic database of passengers, crew and airline personnel.
APIS was given its first outing in India last year at Indira Ghandi International Airport and has now become more widespread following the success of the system there. The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) made the decision, under the Finance Ministry, to extend the implementation to other airports in India after arrests were made and passengers apprehended.
Customs officials released a statement earlier this week, “So far the system has been generating important inputs and its leads have resulted in apprehension of passengers trying to smuggle in gold and other banned items.”
According to the statement, there have been 399 cases of gold smuggling reported at Mumbai International airport, 265 at Chennai and 171 at Delhi airports. There have been 90 cases of gold smuggling reported at Kolkata International airport, 36 at Hyderabad and 34 at Bengaluru airports during the same period.
It is hoped that the success of APIS demonstrated at Indira Ghandi International will continue at the other locations.