Theresa May 'authorising mass surveillance'

The Home Office plans would expand the retention of PNR
The Home Office plans would expand the retention of PNR

By Ian Dunt

Theresa May has been accused of authorising the "mass surveillance" of European air passengers by a privacy watchdog.

As reported by last week, the home secretary has taken a leading role in encouraging European countries to massively expand the data they collect from air passengers and how long they keep it.

May accused of betraying 'database state' promise

On Monday, Ms May succeeded in convincing 17 out of 27 EU member states of her plans at a meeting of the home affairs council, despite domestic promises that she would role back the database state.

But the Article 29 Working Party, which is composed of data protection watchdogs from the EU's 27 member states, hit out at the plans to collect PNRs [Passenger Name Record] at all, let alone on the much more expansive basis proposed by the Home Office.

"We consider that [the Commission's plans do] not provide a proper evaluation of the use of PNR and [do] not demonstrate the necessity of what is being proposed," it said.

"Collecting and processing PNR data for the fight against terrorism and serious crime should not enable mass tracking and surveillance of all travellers.

"Necessity and proportionality have still to be proven," it added.

The Commission proposals would see passenger data such as addresses and bank details kept for those entering the EU for three months.

But Ms May wants the surveillance to go much further, keeping records for all flights within the EU for six years.

Germany is leading states opposed to Ms May's idea but the major obstacle to her plans comes in the form of the European parliament, which many consider a defender of privacy rules in Europe.

London already monitors most flights to and from non-EU countries and many of those from without the EU.


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