EU plans to collect personal data on air passengers

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BRUSSELS, Nov 5 (Reuters) The European Union will seek to collect personal data on air passengers travelling to or from the 27-nation bloc and store them for 13 years, under draft anti-terrorism proposals to be unveiled tomorrow.

The bloc's executive Commission will tell EU states they need to collect 19 pieces of personal data on international air travellers including phone number, e-mail adress, payment details and travel agent, a draft seen by Reuters shows.

The plan mirrors a scheme put in place by the United States to collect Passenger Name Record (PNR) information after the 9/11 attacks.

''The availability of PNR data ... is necessary for the purpose of preventing and fighting terrorist offences and organised crime,'' the draft says.

Airlines would need to send the information to the first EU state where a plane is to land, the draft shows.

A Commission official said the system would not burden air carriers as they already collect such data for commercial purposes. ''It is nothing new to information they already collect -- no new burdens on that,'' the official told Reuters.

The official said the draft was not final and elements such as how long data is kept could still change when officials meet today and tomorrow to fine-tune it.

The text will then need to be adopted unanimously by EU states to become law.

PRIVACY EU states will not request or use any data relevant to racial origin, political or religious beliefs or sexual orientation, the Commission official said. If any such data was to be transmitted, it would be immediately deleted.

The proposal would not create a pan-European database, as each EU state would collect its own data and would share it with other EU countries when needed.

Air carriers already communicate the name, date of birth, departure and arrival details of all air travellers, for immigration checks.

Tomorrow's proposal would add further data, to include telephone number, email, complete travel itinerary, seat and luggage information and billing details. More information would be added for unaccompanied children under 18.

The proposal does not apply to people travelling within the EU.

The draft is part of a package of anti-terrorism measures to be proposed by the European Commission tomorrow, with plans to punish incitement to terrorism on the internet and track down explosives.

Some EU lawmakers and rights groups have criticised the plans.

''There is little evidence that the gathering of 'mountain upon mountain' of data on the activities of every person in the EU makes a significant contribution,'' Tony Bunyan, of rights group Statewatch said.

''On the other hand, the use of this data for other purposes, now or in the future, will make the EU the most surveilled place in the world,'' Bunyan said in a statement yesterday.

REUTERS PBB AS0427

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