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A joint system for police and justice officials to access airline passenger data on flights to and from the EU has gained the green light from the European Parliament.
Counter-terrorism officials have lobbied for years for the introduction of Passenger Name Records (PNR) processing, arguing that sharing data will help them trace suspicious itineraries.
The EU PNR Directive was passed by 461 votes to 179 against. EU countries now have two years to turn it into national law.
The passenger travel information is already collected by airlines but the new legislation sets out detailed rules for national authorities to access it when tackling serious crime.
Terrorist gun and bomb attacks in Paris and Brussels have boosted support for such data monitoring in the EU, the BBC reported.
The European Commission welcomed yesterday’s vote, calling it a "strong expression of Europe's commitment to fight terrorism and organised crime".
Passenger Information Units will be set up in each member state to store data.
The Commission said: “The atrocious terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November last year and Brussels on 22 March showed once more that Europe needs to scale up its common response to terrorism and take concrete actions to fight it.
“The EU PNR Directive will be an important contribution to our common response.
“The EU PNR Directive will improve the safety and security of our citizens, while also including robust privacy and data protection safeguards ensuring full compliance with the right to data protection.
“The processing of PNR data is an effective and much needed tool for Europe to prevent and fight terrorist activity and serious crime.
“The use of PNR data can sometimes be the only means for law enforcement authorities to identify previously unknown individuals who might be involved in criminal activity and pose a threat to our public safety, and to identify and trace criminal networks and travel patterns. PNR data can be used for prevention as well as investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences.
“The creation of a system for the collection and processing of PNR data received from air carriers by each member state and the exchange of information among member states will ensure a better co-operation between national authorities, and reduce security gaps.
“The Directive effectively regulates the transmission of PNR data by air carriers to member states including on intra-EU flights, and contains robust safeguards in terms of privacy, data protection and the respect of fundamental rights.
“PNR data may only be processed for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime.
PNR data consists of booking information concerning aircraft passengers stored by airlines in their reservation and departure control systems.
Information collected includes travel dates, itineraries, ticket information, contact details, the travel agent through which the flight was booked, means of payment used, seat number and baggage information.
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