Asking for Evidence

The EU directive on gathering Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for all flight passengers entering or leaving EU will imply an increase in cost for air carriers and be severely intrusive to data protection. Is it worth it? Is it effective? Are the effects proportionate to its negative impact?

So far, no hard evidence has been presented by EU institutions to demonstrate the need for PNR collection and analysis, as has been previously reported by Statewatch (p.3).

The Commission’s impact assessment on its proposal relied on three cases to illustrate the necessity of the system.

The first example (p.12) is a case where PNR analysis uncovered a group of human traffickers always travelling on the same route. The second case (p.12) relates to human and drug trafficking cartels, identified on the basis of having bought tickets with stolen credit cardsby PNR. The third argument is the unsubstantiated claim by a number of third countries and member states that (p.13):
“The experience of those countries shows that the use of PNR data has led to critical progress in the fight against crime, in particular, drugs and human trafficking and the fight against terrorism, and a better understanding of terrorist and other criminal groups through the gathering of intelligence on their travel patterns.”
However, no data from member states is shown to support these statements.

Several institutions have raised the need for evidence:

The Article 29 Working Party, an advisory institution made  up  of  representatives  of  EU  Member  States’  data  protection authorities, has stated that (p.3):
“The Working Party has yet to see any statistics showing the ratio between the number of innocent travellers whose PNR data was collected to the number of law enforcement outcomes resulting from that PNR data.”

The European Data Protection Supervisor, discussing PNR systems more generally, has noted that (p.4):
“The necessity of the measures must be established and supported by concrete evidence”

Despite this, the fight against terrorism is mentioned in the European Parliamentary Research Service briefing (p.1) as the primary reason behind the PNR proposal.

The Fire Window through the Ask for Evidence campaign in this open letter invites the European Parliamentary Research Service to present evidence for the claim that the implementation of a framework for surveillance would in fact reduce terrorist activity within European borders.

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