UK Liberty

Travel data

Posted in database state, politicians on liberty, surveillance society by ukliberty on August 6, 2008

The BBC:

Ministers are concerned EU restrictions on sharing air passengers’ data could limit efforts to control immigration.

The UK already collects details like names and travel plans which they say are “vital” to secure borders.

But a plan to make all EU states share the information could limit its use to terrorism and organised crime.

The Home Office says it could pose a “real risk” to its borders programme, which it says has already prompted 2,100 arrests for serious crimes.

OK – but weren’t we concerned just now about immigration?

The UK already collects passenger name record – or PNR – details include people’s names, addresses, e-mail addresses, whether they had luggage, the date they reserved their ticket, “no show” information and whether they paid cash.

The EU intends to require all member states to collect the details for flights in and out of Europe, and share them to combat terrorism and organised crime.

But the UK wants to go further and share data from internal EU flights, sea and rail travel and use it for more crimes and continue using it for immigration offences.

In a report published in July,

Which the BBC haven’t linked to,

the House of Lords EU Select Committee warned that if the government pushed for “radical changes” to the EU proposal, it might have to opt out of the EU framework – and lose the co-operation of other EU countries.

And it recommended that the PNR data be used solely for “the fight against terrorism and combating other serious crime” – adding that the definition of a serious crime should be clearly defined.

For example, fishing for salmon or fly tipping, or tobacco smuggling?

…In a statement, a Home Office spokesman said the e-Borders programme had collected details of 50 million passenger movements – which had prompted 25,000 “alerts” and 2,100 arrests for crimes including murder and drug smuggling.

“The collection of passenger name records is a vital tool in Britain’s fight against organised crime, terrorism and immigration offenders,” he said.

Sure, riiiiight:

  • 50 million movements
  • 25,000 alerts
  • 2,100 arrests (no information on charges or convictions!)


  • 0.05 % of movements resulted in an alert
  • 0.0042 % of movements resulted in an arrest.

It makes me wonder whether or not it is, in fact, vital.

No information on the number of convictions on the Project Semaphore website, either.

(Terrorism arrests and convictions may be of interest: about 28% of arrests result in convictions / awaiting trial. But there are many more searches – in the tens of thousands under s44 of the Terrorism Act. Although the Government says these are for a deterrent effect.)

But shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said, if the government wanted to extend the purposes for which it wants to use passengers’ details, it should be precise about “what the objective is, why it is necessary and what safeguards it will put in place to protect the privacy of the innocent”.

“Given the government’s proven and serial inability to protect personal data the public will not agree to this lightly,” he said.

BY the way, we’re at the forefront here too, according to the Committee:

Among the Member States of the EU, the United Kingdom is at present the only country to have a fully functioning PNR system.


One Response

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  1. Sailing and e-Borders « UK Liberty said, on August 7, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    […] Feed Rendition involves some troublesome issuesHas the PNR been useful in combatting terrorism?Travel dataIs it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s unmanned spy droneso-called fraud proof epassport can be […]

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