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EU privacy ‘blocking terror fight’

CNN reports that America’s top security official has urged European leaders to cooperate with U.S. demands to share information on airline passengers such as names, place of birth and date of birth, saying European resistance was hampering anti-terrorism efforts.

Tom Ridge, secretary for homeland security, said the European Union’s demand to protect passengers’ privacy must be balanced by the right of those passengers to travel safely. He noted that the United States wasn’t requesting information on health or religion.

The new U.S. law came into effect March 5. It requires airlines to provide the U.S. government with passenger details such names, phone and credit card numbers as well as meal choices. Because of the EU law banning the sharing of such information, European airlines face fines of up to $6,000 a passenger and the loss of landing rights if they fail to comply.

The EU Internal Market Commissioner, Frits Bolkstein, warned Ridge in June that if negotiations to bridge the two laws failed, a “highly charged trans-Atlantic confrontation” could ensue. If there is no deal, EU officials have said the EU would have to instruct national data agencies to stop sharing data with Washington and fine carriers that do so, leaving airlines caught in the middle.

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