US 'Blackmails' EU Into Agreeing To Hand Over Passenger Data

from the you-have-no-more-fundamental-rights dept

A couple months ago, we wrote about a debate in the EU Parliament, concerning an agreement over how much data should be shared with the US on passengers flying from the EU into the US. The person in charge of analyzing the agreement, Sophie in’t Veld, urged the Parliament to reject the agreement, saying that it violated EU citizens’ fundamental rights. Specifically, the US wanted access to more data with fewer restrictions than the EU felt was fair. However, it appears that after the US pulled out its big gun over this — threatening to stop allowing EU citizens to visit the US without first obtaining a visa — the Parliament caved and agreed to the deal. The one big concession from the US, however, was that EU passengers will be able to see their records and correct errors. Sophie in’t Veld is still not happy — and for good reason:

“This Agreement is contrary to European Treaties and privacy laws and does not meet the minimum criteria set by Parliament itself. Diplomatic relations with the United States appear to be more important than the fundamental rights of our own EU citizens.”

In a statement sent to Techdirt, she also noted that, in caving, the EU Parliament “loses its credibility and EU citizens draw the short straw.” Part of the problem is just how unequal the setup is, with the US getting tons of power over EU citizens. And, of course, the fact that the EU caved to the US sets a bad precedent. “The Trans-Atlantic relations need to become more balanced. EU should take a less timid stance towards the US.” In the end, she notes that what happened was “almost to the extent of blackmail.”

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Comments on “US 'Blackmails' EU Into Agreeing To Hand Over Passenger Data”

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102 Comments
A Guy (profile) says:

This doesn’t seem like blackmail to me. The US has a right to control who comes and goes through its borders, just like every other country does. If they EU citizens would have been required to fill out a visa anyway, what difference does it make to the ordinary traveler if the process is streamlined?

*puts on tin foil hat*
This is most likely due to many EU countries making biometric data required at border checks. It’s making life harder for our spooks, who are used to coming and going under many different identities. If Europe is going to track our spies more closely, its only fair we acquire the data to track theirs back.
*removes tin foil hat*

Andrew (profile) says:

Re:

Well yes it does have a right to control who comes in, but there are consequences from behaving like that. Visiting the US is a pain for anyone without a US passport: visas / visa waivers, long queues, photos, fingerprint scans, etc. And the rest of the world, largely, reciprocates by making it a pain for US citizens to visit their countries.*

Contrast this with, for example, Schengen in the EU. This allows citizens of many EU states to cross each others’ borders without showing their passports. Sure there’s a loss of control, but there are also big benefits in terms of free movement of people and goods. I’m not saying it’s a panacea, and I’m sure others with much more experience can chime in with a more nuanced view, but this sort of setup does have benefits.

* At least in my limited experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Exactly!

How can we fix our government when every other government wants to be like ours!?

All that does is add fuel to the fire… then our government uses excuses like: “We need to keep our policies consistent with the rest of the world.” WTF?

It seems to be a chicken/egg issue, and while our government often starts it, it seems everyone else goes along with it until it’s a complete disaster in the end.

Call me Al says:

Re:

I’ve not been back to the US for a decade. At least part of the reason is on my last trip when I had to stop over in NY on the way back from Peru they made me empty a massive rucksack, unwrap Christmas presents and open every container and then had a go at me when it took me more than 30s to repack everything.

If you make the journey unpleasant then it lessens the enjoyment of the trip, which makes me think I might as well go somewhere else.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Go ahead US. Go on doing this, asking for more and more information. You’re only increasing the size of the haystack, thus exponentially decreasing the chance of finding terrorists. The US intelligence community is already swamped with far too much data to sift through.
So, what’s next? Is the US government going to demand that someone on a flight from EU country A to somewhere in the Middle East must be vetted by Homeland Security
*checks back a few articles*
Oh wait. That’s already happened. The US wants data on passengers flying between the UK and Canada, even if the flight never enters US airspace.
What was the rallying cry over the American War of Independence? “No Taxation without Representation”? What about “No Control/Vetting without Representiation”? We’re foreigners, not citizens of the US and yet the US is demanding to VET US? To not try us, to declare a punishment/curtailment of our freedom with no chance for us to argue in a court of law?
No wonder I don’t want to go to the US. Respond to this thread if you agree not to travel to the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Yea that sucks for you guys ๐Ÿ™ It’s sad one of the main reasons for making the USA what it was meant to be is dead. The huge federal reserve “Not government owned” was never supposed to making it here.

After they got a foothold here it has been doing downhill generation after generation. The problem is the elites that own everything have massive amounts of power. It’s hard to stop someone in their position with practically endless funds.

It’s not just the USA or EU they have the better part of the world in their debt. It was like the ship that was “sunk” so they said and we entered Vietnam. 20 Years later the truth came out that it was never even near the area it was supposedly destroyed.

Every dollar in circulation we are paying interest to them. Then with some good ol fashioned fucked up loopholes banks can borrow 1 billion then put up another 90% of that into the computers making it 1.9 then 90% of the 900 million and so on. Inflation is the best way to keep people down since we’re all too busy just trying to get by.

These Satanic types worshiping their fairytale devil is a joke. I would just like to do my 60-80 years here and enjoy myself much as I can. In the grand scheme of things 1-2 billions years down the road nothing will be remembered. Probably less since we have a bad habit of using technology to blow shit up.

Einstein – e=mc2!! Goddamn I’m epic.
Our government – WTFBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
Japan – OH MY GOD THE END IS HERE!!!
Russia – Oh shit we better get some of them made ourselves.
Saddam Hussein – Yellow cake plox Russia!
Russia – In mother Russia bomb Saddam’s you.
USA – Did someone mention cake! I’m starving!!
Canada – LOL
USA – What did you say?
Canada – … nothing sheesh.
China – Censored sorry..
George Bush – There’s an old saying in Tennessee ? I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee ? that says, fool me once, shame on ? shame on you. Fool me ? you can’t get fooled again
World – Da fuck?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

OK, I’ll get right on that. I mean we have elections coming up, so instead of voting for the guy who has proven to lie, bully, and not care about privacy or personal rights, I’ll vote for……the guy who has proven to lie, bully, and not care about privacy or personal rights.

OK, so maybe that won’t work, but then in the senate/house, I can…..vote for one guy who tows a party line I disagree with, or vote for another guy who tows a different party line I disagree with.

Get the point?

zippy says:

Perhaps it’s time for the US to be broken up much like the Soviet Union once was, as it’s become much too big and bloated to serve its citizens’ interests. States should start remembering that they have rights too, and begin to exert them. Particularly the right of secession. There would be several smaller countries instead, made up of regional groups of the old states. Perhaps something like this:

The Northeastern Alliance – Mass., Conn., New Hamp. Vermont, NY, NJ, Penns., Maine, Rhode Island.

The Southern Union – Virginia, W. Virginia, Maryland, N & S Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi

The Midwestern Range – Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, N & S Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa

The Sands of the Southwest – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma

The Northwestern Union – Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming

Hawaii and Alaska would be independent nations by themselves. And I think that covers all of them.

Richard (profile) says:

Re:

You’re right – unfortunately we (the Brits) are the cause of the problem – we cleaned out all the other colonies in N. America – then asked our own colonies to pay the bill. Ungratefully they rebelled and then got assistance from the other nations (ntoably France) that we had just kicked out. That was a massive miscalculation on our part. If hadn’t done that N. America would now resemble S. America or Africa – a patchwork of relatively small states based on their heritage from former colonies. Some speaking French, some German, some Spanish and some Portuguese and of course the orignal British colonies speaking English.

Having realised that we got it wrong in N. America we then went off and messed up India instead!

Anonymous Coward says:

Uhmmm

Wouldn’t making EU citizens apply for visa negatively affect tourism in the US?

I hate to disturb you in your government-supplied comfort cocoon, but the US destroyed “tourism in the US” all by itself in the last 10 years.

Personally, I’d rather stick two forks in my eyes than go there. The US acts like a huge gun-totin’ mind-controlled rambo (or is it dumbo?) cult.

What did they do to you poor bastards to make you so horrible?

Thuh terrists wun.

Anonymous Coward says:

two major points to be sad about here. the disgraceful attitude and total lack of concern of the EU for it’s citizens. who cares if people have to pay for a USA visa? recoup the charges when those from the USA go to the EU. in fact, it could have been much more profitable considering there are so many countries in the EU. charging for visiting each would be more costly than going to the 1 USA.
2nd point is, yet again, the USA has to use threats, even against it’s so-called allies, just to get it’s own way. it’s the same as ‘if you dont play what game i want, i’ll take my ball home’. how absolutely fucking pathetic is that??

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Umm, yeah – just try grouping Maryland with Mississippi and Georgia. Common interests? None. Maryland? Part of a “southern union”? I suggest you study your history a little bit better.

And you realize that you’ve forgotten that there are regular old citizens who reside in DC (who, even in this theoretical grouping of yours, still have no representation whatsoever). Make all the jokes you want about what DC represents, in many ways it’s nothing but a (poorly run) city where ordinary people live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

He also has Texas and California together. So not a whole lot of thought as to the groups. But I have said for a long time this is the way to go. Let some of the states stop teaching science in schools and ban abortion and birth control and gay marriage. Obviously they stop getting tax dollars from the other states but in exchange they get to do all the crazy shit they want to. Then watch the intelligent population of those states flee. Wait a few generations for the retarded inbred evangelical masses to kill themselves off and we sweep back in to grab that good farming land.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re:

States should start remembering that they have rights too, and begin to exert them.

I think this is the important part. The states were in control to begin with, but then the Federal government pushed for more and more power and the States gave it to them. If anything, I’d just split California up into two states (North and South) and then revert all power back into the states, but that won’t happen.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re:

It’s not just us ferriers that the US bullies at their borders, it’s their own citizens. Leave the U.S. without a passport and an American citizen finds it next to impossible to get back in again.

All this means, of course, is that the bad guys now know the rules in detail and can use them to freely enter and leave the States while the rest of us are harassed and bullied in the name of security.

Well done!

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this is a perfect story to see what “spin” is all about.

Before we get going, let’s understand something: The US is a sovereign nation, and as such, may set the rules required for entry into it’s territory – even if it is only in an aircraft overflying it’s territories.

In many countries, that requirement would be an entry visa or such, or on the case of a countries like Russian and China, it was that no aircraft could even fly in it’s airspace. Still others may require decontamination of an aircraft upon arrival, or each passenger is interrogated before being allowed on a flight.

As such, what the US asks for passengers inbound to it’s country is not outrageous. Rather, it’s pretty smart – why accept someone onto a flight who isn’t going to be allowed into the US anyway? It seems like a pretty good way to control security risks, making sure that those who are clearly a risk can’t even get to the country.

Now, the spin: “almost to the extent of blackmail” is a great phrase, it certainly can give you a visual / mental impression of what is going on. But it is truly spin, because the EU minister is completely ignoring the sovereign rights of the US. The US has the right to refuse access to anyone. They have the right to determine what aircraft can and cannot come into the US.

The minister does protest too much. EU citizens can choose NOT to go to the US, and thus not have to give their information to the destination country.

There is no invasion of privacy, only an invasion of self-serving politicians trying to spin this into their favor.

I wonder what her stand was when websites all over the world were forced to use EU privacy guidelines?

wookie says:

Re:

Is everybody just useless on this post? Look our country got bombed, so now we are trying to protect it better! Suck it up and let them background check you! I’ve never visited EU but if I did, they can check all the data they want on me! But with all the comments from you Yahoos! I have no intention of visiting and spending money to help stimulate your economy!

Jay (profile) says:

Re:

States should start remembering that they have rights too, and begin to exert them.

If you believe in states’ rights, I got news for ya… It ain’t really the case. Further, the blue (Dem) states have done quite well while the Red (Rep) have been suffering with their austerity plans. But I’ll tell you exactly how to fix the system:

Abolish the Electoral college. There’s better systems and quite frankly it’s the way to begin the process of allowing better candidates into the White House.

Andreas says:

The problem here isn?t that the US is asking for this information. The problem is that the European Parliament is handing the information over without any support from the public. If US requires a visa for tourist thats fine, but the parliament here in Europe think its more important to keep the US authorities happy rather then its own citizens.

Could be the main reason why so few bother to vote in the EU election..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

The EU could do it if they want. However, the EU considered it’s options, and realizes that forcing Americans to get a Visa to enter Europe was self-defeating.

Remember, what the US is asking for isn’t making the EU travelers have to do much more than they did before. In fact, it’s making the EU agents and airlines do what they always should have had to do to start with, which is KNOW THEIR CUSTOMER. They need to know who they are dealing with.

The EU needs to realize that the US is right on this issue, and that if they want to have their citizens travel to the US, that they have to deal with it.

Here’s an example of “the rules” when you get to the extreme end. If you want to travel to China, you need a visa. In order to get that Visa, you have to do something that is totally disagreeable to most people: You have to hand over your passport to them for a week or more. That’s means you legal ID in someone else’s hands. It’s the only way to get the visa. Your choice is do it and travel there, or don’t do it and don’t travel there. We always have choices. Any time you think the US is being too demanding, just remember what demanding really is.

Someguy says:

American in Europe

I have a particularly strong set of views on this topic that largely reflects the views expressed by most people on this forum. However, if I force myself to take a step back and consider everything, I can ALMOST understand the US stance on this topic. I am an American but I have lived in Europe for the past 15 years. One significant difference that I can see between the US and the EU countries is that European countries have much tighter control over what people can do on a daily basis. It is difficult, though not impossible, to live in most european countries without having the proper documentation. Back in 2000, I couldn’t even open an internet account (dial up for e-mail) without proving to the telephone company that I had the proper paperwork to live here. Effectively, it was impossible to live here without repeatedly demonstrating that I had the correct paperwork. In contrast in the US, once you are inside the country, there are very few instances where you need to demonstrate that you have residency. Because of this, the US must have tighter border controls.

As this is a techy group, the best analogy that I can come up with is IT security. The EU has security in depth, while the US is sticking with perimeter defense. Of course that security in depth comes at a price, and the price is privacy. Personal data is much more readily shared within EU countries than it is in the US (example, Denmark sends its citizens their completed tax forms for “approval” at the end of each year). Big brother is always watching, its just a matter of how visible and pervasive his presence is felt.

JS says:

Re:

Funny thing though. The US also requires this information of passengers on airplanes that enter US airspace but do not land on US soil. That’s right. You are flying into or out of another country (Canada or Mexico) and your plane happens to pass through US airspace so you must provide the requested information to the US government even though you will be thousands of feet in the air and on your way to another country.

Lin (profile) says:

Silly, naive me. LOL!
I’m a US citizen and I just assumed that I would need a passport or visa to travel to a foreign country. Canada and the Bahamas are fine with driver’s license/ID but I assumed anywhere else would *require* a passport or visa.
I’m actually surprised that apparently there are countries I could travel to without needing anything! Really???

Andrew (profile) says:

Re:

Yeah, I’m not saying I think it’s great that some countries are more “important” than others, but governments tend to behave that way — partly for good reasons (generally the less important country, to continue using that term, offers its citizens fewer prospects or a lower standard of living, so more people want to go one way than the other), and partly because they can get away with it (after all, what are the other guys going to do about it?).

I knew a girl from Slovakia a few years ago. If I remember correctly, she had to queue for 2 days outside the British embassy to get a visa to visit the UK. I don’t believe I would have even needed a visa to go the other way. (Though by the next year, Slovakia had joined the EU and she could just show her passport at the border to get in like someone from any other member state.)

silverscarcat says:

Re:

And how is California doing economically? (Worst state, Blue)

Compared to North Dakota economically (Best state, Red)

Please don’t generalize, things are crap all across the country.

As for SOME of those red states in the mid-west, please remember that they were hit with a MASSIVE flood last year and are still recovering from it.

FuzzyDuck says:

American in Europe

That example of taxes in Denmark, is similar in my country, we don’t have to fill in tax forms as it’s all done for you. They even tell you things you can deduct that you might not have known. I like it, I’ve gotten back hundreds of Euros in taxes for things I didn’t know I could claim. In other countries you need to hire a tax consultant for this crap and it’s not like the government doesn’t then know all about your finances anyway.

zippy says:

Re:

Judgementalism and generalizations, Pink AC 44! “Religious” folks aren’t the only ones who do that, you know. Whenever you think of yourself as better than anyone, anyone at all, that is arrogance. So don’t. And don’t disparage anyone. If you can’t talk about people without putting them down, you’re no better than what you think they are. Just something to keep in mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I’m surprised that EU caving in because of the same reason.

Require every EU citizen to obtain visa to travel to US.
Require every US citizen to obtain visa to travel to EU.

See citizen from which side will protest more against this! In such case, EU Parliament is in better position because it’s US who started it.

On the other hand, caving in to this will dismay EU citizen only. That’s bad choice even on “game theory” stand point.

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