The European Parliament has called on EU negotiators to make sure they get enough safeguards in upcoming talks with the United States to protect the data rights of EU citizens.
MEPs voted through two resolutions today (5 May) that called for a more limited use of personal data collected by US authorities, fearing the data could be abused.
At issue are two separate transfers of data. One is the so-called Passenger Name Records collected by airlines about passengers on transatlantic flights, which are used by US customs and border control agents to screen people who travel to the US.
The Parliament decided to postpone its approval of a 2007 EU-US accord on the transfer of PNR, and a similar arrangement with Australia. They did so to give Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, time to draft a new proposal that would answer calls by MEPs for a global agreement setting out how passenger data can be used and what legal redress citizens have over the use of their data.
The MEPs also want a separate effort to negotiate a deal with the US that would cover all data transfer deals between the two sides.
The other data transfer issue voted on today dealt with information collected on bank transfers from Europe that the US Treasury screens to weed out terrorist financiers. Negotiations on a new so-called Terrorist Tracking Finance Programme between the EU and the US are expected to start later this month. The Parliament rejected an interim deal in February because of concerns that it did not do enough to protect the privacy rights of EU citizens.
A second resolution called on better safeguards to protect European data in those talks and to ensure less data is transmitted to US authorities until it can be properly processed within the EU, under European data privacy rules.
MEPs believe the data transfers violate EU data-protection rules and are calling on the European Commission and member states to make sure new EU-US accords on the transfer of the data offers better rights guarantees for Europeans.
“With today’s vote, we have …clearly told the European Commission that we will only accept a deal which ensures European overseeing of the transfer of data as well as its extraction and use,” said a statement issued by three Socialist and Democrat MEPs, including Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, a Spanish centre-left MEP who is chair of the Parliament’s civil liberties committee.
“Bank data can only be transferred to the US if there is independent judicial review and control on a case-by-case basis, as well as a narrow definition of the use of such data, short retention periods and effective legal redress,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP.
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