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Brussels, 2 February 2011

EU proposal for passenger data to fight serious crime and terrorism

The European Commission presented today a proposal for an EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive to fight serious crime and terrorism. The proposal obliges air carriers to provide EU Member States with data on passengers entering or departing from the EU, whilst guaranteeing a high level of protection of privacy and personal data.

"This proposal for an EU PNR Directive is an important part of EU security policy. Common EU rules are necessary to fight serious crime such as drugs smuggling and people trafficking as well as terrorism, and to ensure that passengers' privacy is respected and their rights fully protected in all Member States. The proposal requires Member States to anonymise all PNR data that is collected", said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.

In this proposal, the Commission lays down common rules for EU Member States to set up national PNR systems.

The Commission proposes:

  • That air carriers transfer data on passengers on international flights held in the carriers' reservation systems to a dedicated unit in the Member State of arrival or departure. Member States will analyse and retain the data for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious crime and terrorist offences.

  • Strong protection of privacy and personal data. PNR data may not be used for any purpose except fighting serious crime and terrorist offences (strict purpose limitation). Law enforcement authorities in Member States must make the data anonymous 1 month after the flight, and data must not be retained for more than five years in total (short retention period). Sensitive data that could reveal racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, or religious beliefs may never be transferred by air carriers to, or in any way used by, the Member States. Member States will not be able to access the databases of air carriers, the data must be requested and sent to them by the air carriers concerned (‘push method’). Member States must set up dedicated units to handle the data and keep it secure and ensure those units are monitored by an independent supervisory (data protection) authority. Clear rules on passengers' right to accurate information about the collection of PNR data are also introduced, as well as rules giving passengers the right to access, rectify, and delete their data, and to compensation and judicial remedies.

  • Clear rules on how data should be transferred, for example how many times data may be transferred by the air carriers to Member States and the security of such transfers, aimed at limiting the impact on privacy and minimising the costs for air carriers.


Passenger Name Record (PNR) data consists of information provided by passengers and collected by carriers during the reservation and booking of the tickets and when checking in on flights.

In practice many law enforcement authorities in Member States already collect PNR data on a case-by-case or on a flight-by-flight basis. The Commission proposal would allow for a more systematic use of the data for all relevant flights, and create a coherent approach across all Member States. This will avoid uneven levels of protection of passengers' personal data, as well as security gaps, increased costs, and legal uncertainty for air carriers and passengers.

Processing of PNR data under the proposal will be in line with the data protection rules laid down in the Framework Decision on Data Protection from 2008, and will therefore ensure a high level of protection of personal data.

The United States, Canada and Australia currently oblige EU air carriers to make PNR data available for all persons who fly to and from these countries. The experience of those countries, and of the EU Member States that use PNR data, confirms that PNR data are necessary to fight serious crime and terrorism.

This proposal replaces the Commission's proposal for a Framework Decision on the use on PNR data from 2007. Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the 2007 proposal needed to be re-tabled under the new Treaty rules.

Next steps

It is expected to take approximately 2 years to negotiate the proposal in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs:

Homepage of DG Home:


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