People reading today’s Telegraph might want to reconsider their holiday plans in the light of this:
Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington.
By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.
The extent of the demands were disclosed in “undertakings” given by the US Department of Homeland Security to the European Union and published by the Department for Transport after a Freedom of Information request.
About four million Britons travel to America each year and the released document shows that the US has demanded access to far more data than previously realised.
The report continues,
In October, Brussels agreed to sweep away the “bureaucratic hurdles” preventing airlines handing over this material after European carriers were threatened with exclusion from the US. The newly-released document sets out the rules underpinning that deal.
As a result the Americans are entitled to 34 separate pieces of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data — all of which must be provided by airlines from their computers.
Much of it is routine but some elements will prove more contentious, such as a passenger’s email address, whether they have a previous history of not turning up for flights and any religious dietary requirements [hold the halal chicken].
While insisting that “additional information” would only be sought from lawful channels, the US made clear that it would use PNR data as a trigger for further inquiries.
Anyone seeking such material would normally have to apply for a court order or subpoena, although this would depend on what information was wanted. Doubts were raised last night about the effectiveness of the safeguards.
“There is no guarantee that a bank or internet provider would tell an individual that material about them was being subpoenaed,” an American lawyer said.
“Then there are problems, such as where the case would take place and whether an individual has time to hire a lawyer, even if they wanted to challenge it.”
Initially, such material could be inspected for seven days but a reduced number of US officials could view it for three and a half years. Should any record be inspected during this period, the file could remain open for eight years.
Material compiled by the border authorities can be shared with domestic agencies. It can also be on a “case by case” basis with foreign governments.
Washington promised to “encourage” US airlines to make similar information available to EU governments — rather than compel them to do so.
“It is pretty horrendous, particularly when you couple it with our one-sided extradition arrangements with the US,” said Miss Chakrabarti.
Further and better particulars of the sort of file this PNR data is used to compile were reported by The Register and Bruce Schneier early in December. Still, we don’t mind our trip to Disneyworld being the occasion of the US government trawling through our credit card records and emails, do we? Nor their sharing the material round various domestic US agencies and handing out to unspecified foreign governments ‘on a case by case basis’. For since we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear… and if it catches only one potential terrorist…
What do you mean, you think you’ll take the kids to Euro Disney instead?
Technorati: Privacy, USA, Passenger Name Record, Data Sharing, Reasons to go to Euro Disney