The European Parliament today voted to approve new legislation setting up an EU system for the collection and retention of air passenger data (PNR). The Greens have consistently criticised the proposed system, which will fail to address the terrorist threat, whilst undermining the fundamental lights of EU citizens. After the vote, Green MEP and home affairs spokesperson Jan Philipp Albrecht said:
"This EU PNR system is a false solution, based on the flawed political obsession with mass surveillance. PNR is a placebo at best, which will not only undermine the fundamental rights of EU citizens but also undermine the security of our societies by diverting badly-needed resources from security and intelligence tools that could actually be useful for combating terrorism, like targeted surveillance.
"The tragic attacks on Brussels and Paris underlined that the problem is not the lack of information on terrorist suspects, as all suspects were already known to the authorities. Instead, it was the failure to properly share this information and act to ensure comprehensive surveillance of these individuals. Authorities can already access flight records today, so are aware of who takes what flights. Instead of mass data collection, there should be targeted surveillance of suspects and risk flights to a defined list of risk destinations.
"There is no proof that the mass collection and storage of air passenger data helps in combating terrorism. It takes enormous resources to sift through the haystack of data for a needle that may not exist. According to estimates by the Commission, this PNR system will cost €500 million. These funds could be much better used by police and security services to address the existing gaps and shortages they face to properly survey and monitor suspects.
"Beyond this, there are major fundamental rights concerns with the unrestricted retention of air passengers' data without suspicion. The landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice in 2014 made clear that the general retention of data without grounds is not compatible with EU law. This has clear implications for passenger data exchange and retention systems. The European Court of Human Rights has raised similar concerns.
"We regret that a majority of MEPs has chosen to ignore these concerns and wave through the PNR system under the pressure of false arguments."