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UK traveler data program may violate EU law: legislative report

[JURIST] The UK's 1.2 billion-pound e-Borders [official website] program initiated by Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official profile; JURIST news archive] will likely be found illegal under European Union (EU) law, the British House of Commons Home Affairs Committee [official website] reported [text, PDF; press release] Friday. The program was intended to provide the UK Border Agency (UKBA) [official website] with a more effective and efficient security system by collecting and analyzing information on all passengers entering or leaving the UK. Under EU law, member states are not permitted to require additional passenger information other than a valid identification document except in extreme circumstances. According to the report, the program also potentially violates other member states' data protection laws. The report states:

All our witnesses expressed concerns about whether the e-Borders programme was compatible with EU law, and in particular the principle of free movement of people. The EU Directive cited by UKBA as a basis for its project relates to the transport of passengers by air over EU's external borders. Moreover, the carriers were concerned that other EU countries to which their services travelled were increasingly questioning the legality of requiring their citizens to provide data, rather than simply producing a form of identification (passport or ID card) before they were allowed to travel to the UK.

The British lawmakers believe it is important for the program to be put on hold [Bloomberg report] pending further review of its legality.

The British government had hoped to have the e-Borders program operating at 60 percent of capacity by December 2009. The program, which is a collaborative effort between the UKBA and Trusted Borders [corporate website], was expected to be fully operational, covering all international passengers by March 2014. This is not the first time that the British government has raised flags at the EU over privacy issues. In April, the European Commission (EC) [official website] notified [JURIST report] the UK that it started infringement proceedings against the UK for failure to follow EU Internet privacy and data protection rules.

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