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In the wake of the tragic Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks, the European Union has taken steps to increase security. And now, the plan for the government to collect information on travelers flying into and out of Europe is in place — and has also ignited a heated debated about the line between security and privacy.
The measure to collect and share passenger name records (PNRs) passed in the European parliament, and now EU governments have a two-year grace period to get a PNR system up and running. The new system will track all movement into and out of the EU in an effort to identify any patterns of suspicious behavior, and the effort may be extended to flights between EU countries, but national governments must agree on that before it goes into effect. The US, Canada and Australia already collect PNR data, and with the EU being added to the list, the governing body has signed agreements with all three of the other data-collecting countries to exchange passenger information.
The passenger data, which is already collected by airlines but can now be acquired by authorities, includes names, email addresses, phone numbers, itinerary, baggage records, passport data and payment method. All information will be held for five years, and any elements of someone’s travels that could identify them will be anonymized after six months. The idea of collecting and sharing traveler personal data has been around in the EU for decades, but it wasn’t until the most recent string of terrorist attacks that the parliament voted in favor of the new tracking system.
What does this mean for travelers flying into and out of Europe? This particular plan won’t necessarily impact things like security wait times, but the information that you’re accustomed to giving when booking a flight will be kept on file. The new data collection is all in the name of increasing security efforts and will be aimed at not only terror suspects, but also to track common criminals like drug dealers and weapons smugglers.
What do you think of the EU’s new scheme to collect passenger data?
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