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EU’s air-passenger data grab under scrutiny by lawmakers

Passengers at Larnaca Airport

By Andria Kades

Lawmakers on Wednesday began discussing an EU harmonising bill which will require air carriers to obtain 20 categories of data from travellers in a bid to combat terrorism and organised crime.

The bill falls under the EU PNR directive which stands for passenger name records.

Discussed during the House legal committee, MPs heard that the bill requires data is collected from all passengers arriving to Cyprus – whether EU or not – as well as all travellers leaving the island, irrespective of their nationality.

The information passengers must provide include, in addition to full name, address and contact details, all payment details including billing address, passenger’s travel history including booking confirmations, ticket checks, passenger arrival information, ticket number, date of issue, seating number and all baggage information.

The bill in Cyprus, prepared by the justice ministry, will, according to Akel MP Aristos Damianou also include passengers’ meal options. He said if someone opted for vegetarian food, this data would be recorded as there may be a chance the individual could be linked with Islamist terrorism.

If someone misses their flight, this too will be noted, he told reporters.

Damianou said though Akel did not disagree with measures to combat terrorism, there needed to be a balance between human rights and clamping down on crime.

He claimed the government went over and above what was required by including a provision which mandates every passenger needs to be profiled.

This is not an EU requirement and has been determined to be illegal by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Damianou said.

Air carriers will be responsible for keeping those records and passing on the data to a specially set up ‘passenger information unit’.

According to committee chairman and Disy MP Georgios Georgiou, the police chief will assign someone to head the unit which will also be staffed by a member of Cyprus’ intelligence service (Kyp) and someone from the customs department.

He added safeguards would be in place to protect personal data.

Personal data protection commissioner Irini Loizidou Nicolaidou informed the committee that she had no objections to the bill’s clauses but that it would be possible problems might come up during oversight as her office is not sufficiently staffed.

 

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