European parliamentarians next week are to debate a controversial draft law that would create massive national police databases of flight passengers entering or leaving the 27-nation European Union, including everything from addresses to meal preferences.
The proposal for a “passenger name record” (PNR) would require airlines and booking agencies to hand over passenger data to national authorities, which would then routinely search for anything conspicuous. The data would be saved for five years and would include names, seat assignments, travel destinations, phone numbers, hired travel agencies and potential re-bookings, among other details.
In order to process the enormous amount of information, each individual member state would be required to delegate a national police unit to gather, save, evaluate and, when appropriate, forward the information onto other relevant authorities. The bill states that its purpose is to root out not just known terrorists, but also people “previously unsuspected of involvement in serious crime and terrorism” whose data suggests they “may be involved in such crime,” like human trafficking or the drug trade.
The law would apply exclusively to flights entering and leaving the EU, not within its borders. However the European Commission said an inclusion of intra-EU flights remains a possibility.