Parts of a transatlantic data sharing deal should be squashed, an advisor at the EU’s top court has said.
The “PNR Agreement” between the EU and Canada in its current form “is incompatible” with fundamental European rights, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, in Kirchberg, wrote in a preliminary opinion.
The agreement to exchange passenger name record data--the information airlines use in their internal computer systems, but can also be used to help track suspected criminals and terrorists--was struck between Brussels and Ottawa in 2014. The European Council then asked the European Parliament to review the accord. That led the parliament, in November 2014, to ask the ECJ if sending PNR records to Canada would circumvent EU personal data protection rights, according to court documents.
On Thursday, Paolo Mengozzi, one of 11 advocates general at the court, said that portions of agreement ran afoul of EU law. In particular, more information than was necessary to fight terrorism and crime would be shared, Canada could keep PNR data for five years, and Canadian officials could pass details on to foreign governments.
According to Edri, an advocacy group in Brussels: “Passenger Name Record information, which generally contain data such as meal preferences and travel agent, is stored in order to use profiling to guess who might be a terrorist or a criminal. These data are separate from Advance Passenger Information data (the data passengers are required to provide to travel to or from certain countries) and the Visa Information System (database on visa applications to enter the Schengen area), which are also used for tracking of travellers.”
The Canadian accord will now be considered by a panel of ECJ judges. They are not obliged to follow Mengozzi’s advisory, although in the majority of cases judges reach the same conclusion as advocates general. The final ruling could come within two to six months.
Sophie In’t Veld, the Dutch Liberal MEP who leads parliamentary talks on the agreement, said in a statement: “I hope the court will quickly follow with its final opinion, in order to have the much needed clarity on the compatibility of the agreement with EU data protection legislation.”