A new European Commission counterterrorism plan to be published on Wednesday would require 42 separate pieces of information on every passenger flying in and out of Europe, including their bank card details and home address, to be stored on a central database for up to five years for access by the police and security services, according to exclusive Guardian reporting.
While the plan's designers say safeguards are in place to protect personal privacy, civil liberties advocates immediately spoke out against the proposal.
Of the alleged protections, Jan Philipp Albrecht, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, told the Guardian: "It is a joke. They are not safeguards. Depersonalization does not make the data anonymous. All they have to do is ask a senior officer for the identity to be revealed."
"It is an open breach of fundamental rights to blanketly retain all passenger data," Albrecht said, citing a recent European court of justice ruling that blanket collection of personal data without detailed safeguards is a severe incursion on personal privacy.
The plan comes as a response to this month's Paris attacks. It is a reworked version of a proposal put forth—and shot down by the civil liberties committee—two years ago.
The Guardian reports:
European interior ministers, including the home secretary, Theresa May, who has been pushing the issue most strongly, agreed in Paris on the day of the "Je Suis Charlie" unity march that their main counter-terrorism priority in tracking foreign fighters was to overturn the European parliament’s opposition to the plan.
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They issued a joint statement saying there was a "crucial and urgent need to move toward an European passenger name record system" and immediate progress will be on the agenda when EU interior ministers meet in Riga on Thursday.
Just this week, the top human rights organization in Europe issued a report saying mass surveillance programs threaten fundamental human rights and may do more harm than good in the fight against terrorism.
And on Wednesday, the U.K.-based watchdog group Privacy International noted that eight separate regional and international bodies "have pronounced...mass surveillance a gross violation of human rights."
"Faced with all this evidence, outrage, and demand for change, one would think that our leaders would be moving toward some reform," Privacy International legal director Carly Nyst writes. "Sadly, we have seen the opposite."
Nyst also took her criticism of the proposed counter-terror plan to Twitter:
I’m not sure I can even think of 42 pieces of data about me. Is the EU planning to ask me about my 5 favourite films? http://t.co/CkrX3rlumy
— Carly Nyst (@carlynyst) January 28, 2015