Belgium Wants EU Nations To Collect And Store Personal Data Of Train, Bus And Boat Passengers

from the what-next?-bicycles? dept

It's become pretty common for the authorities to collect personal information about passengers from airlines, supposedly to ensure security. It's a sensitive area, though, as shown by the many years of fraught US-EU negotiations that were required in order to come up with a legal framework for transferring this data to the US when EU citizens were involved. However, not all EU countries are so concerned about that privacy thing. Belgium, for example, thinks that the current approach doesn't go far enough, and that it should be extended to include all forms of mass transport. As this EurActiv article notes, the Belgian parliament has already voted to bring in a national system for trains, buses and boats by May 2018, and the country is calling for the rest of the EU to follow suit:

In response to a number of terror attacks, Belgium wants greater control over who travels on its trains, buses and boats and will present its plans at the next meeting of EU interior ministers at the end of January.

However, there's a problem. Last year, the EU finally passed the EU Passenger Name Record (EUPNR) directive:

The EU PNR directive will oblige airlines to hand EU countries their passengers' data in order to help the authorities to fight terrorism and serious crime. It would require more systematic collection, use and retention of PNR data on air passengers, and would therefore have an impact on the rights to privacy and data protection.

Despite data protection safeguards that were included, resistance to bringing in this directive was fierce from many quarters. EurActiv says:

According to EU diplomats, the decision on air traffic passenger data was already a "big step" and that measure only applies to travellers going to or from third party destinations.

Against that background, asking the EU to extend the PNR scheme to include trains, buses and boats may be going too far, so to speak. Nonetheless, it's a bad idea that's now out there, and all-too likely to spread.

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Filed Under: belgium, eu, personal data, terrorism, travel

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 6 Jan 2017 @ 4:04am

    While the privacy thing is important, the major problems are highlighted very well here:

    "It will mean that anyone wanting to travel by rail, sea or by bus to another EU country will have to register their information.

    The days of buying a last minute ticket will effectively end and it will be impossible to travel, for example, on the Brussels-Cologne high-speed Thalys service without planning ahead."

    It might sound trivial, but the ability to go anywhere at any time, whether for business or leisure, is very important in the EU, especially for shorter journeys (the one mentioned is about 140 miles / 2 hours). So, why would they consider disrupting the lives of their citizens, who for the last few decades have enjoyed complete freedom of movement?

    Oh. Right. Terrorism. They managed to scare you so much that you'd sell the rights of your own citizens for the illusion of more control. Until the next attack, where you'll try to work out which other rights to burn. Which is exactly what they're trying to achieve.

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