January 28, 2015 / 1:08 PM / in 3 years

EU executive ponders new airline data rules after Paris attacks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is reviewing plans on sharing airline passenger data to address privacy concerns while still seeking to improve security following militant attacks in Paris.

A system for sharing airline travel data among European Union countries put forward by the Commission in 2011 - known as Passenger Name Record (PNR) - has been resisted by lawmakers who argue it infringes privacy by instituting mass tracking and surveillance of all travelers.

The Commission, the EU executive, proposes reducing the period airline passenger data is held before being stripped of its identifying elements from 30 days to seven days, according to the document seen by Reuters.

The data will still be stored and accessible for five years if needed for terrorism cases. It will only be held for four years if needed for transnational crimes.

Seventeen people were killed this month in attacks in Paris by three islamist militants, themselves shot dead in police actions. The female partner of one of the gunmen was sought time by French police before it emerged that she had flown to Turkey, then traveled onwards to Syria.

The Commission also proposed narrowing the types of crime for which the data can be accessed - namely “terrorism and serious transnational crime” and limiting who can obtain it.

“Creating a vast data dragnet is a total waste of resources, which would be far better used to carry out targeted surveillance of real suspects,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht of the Greens group in the European Parliament.

The Commission could adopt its amended proposal as early as February 10, the document says, although that would delay any adoption until at least the second half of this year as negotiations in the parliament and among the EU’s 28 member states would have to start from scratch.

Timothy Kirkhope, a Conservative member of the European Parliament responsible for the current, stalled proposal has hinted he could present an amended version of PNR in early February to meet privacy concerns.

The EU already has airline passenger data sharing agreements with the United States and Canada, and some countries within the bloc such as France have put in place their own passenger record systems, but there is no EU-wide system.

Editing by Ralph Boulton

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