US Pushing for Worldwide Airline Passenger Data Collection

Dec 1, 2018

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The United States is calling for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to implement a new standard for airlines worldwide to collect Passenger Name Records. This push from the US comes from a 2017 U.N. Security Council Resolution that created new requirements for countries to deter terrorist travel.

ICAO — a body not exactly known for its rapid decision making — sets global standards in civil aviation. Those rules and regulations are only made mandatory by its 192-member body when they pass domestic legislation that follows ICAO’s standards. The US, of course, is pushing for faster than normal action from ICAO, sighting dealing with terrorists.

Nathan Sales, the US counter-terrorism coordinator, said the governing body should act with “deliberate speed” to have a new standard in place by the end of 2019.

Currently, only a small number of countries actually collect PNRs. Although the United States does take measures to ensure record privacy, there has been push-back from European countries about collecting such vast amounts of data on citizens. Henrik Hololei, director for Mobility and Transport at the European Commission, has stated that any new standard would have to meet data protection rules already established in Europe.

The US has been collecting and using PNRs domestically since the early 1990s. Airlines are currently required by law to share data about passengers before departure. That data is shared between a number of agencies, including US Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Sales stated the US has used PNR data to stop child smuggling as well as keep militants from entering the United States.

The US is offering financial and technical assistance to any country needing help to implement a program to collect PNRs.

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