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Data Privacy: New US Demands for Information Angers European Parliament

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Members of the European Parliament have responded critically to new demands for data by Washington for people traveling to the United States.

US officials are demanding access to additional European police databases in their hunt for potential terrorists traveling to the US. The demands include DNA samples, fingerprints, access to criminal registers and other information. The request is being opposed by members of the European Parliament.

Under massive pressure from the United States government, European Union member states are moving to provide American security officials with access to data in European police databases. Last week, Austria gave in to pressure from Washington to provide access to data including DNA samples, criminal registries and fingerprints.

Without the data exchange, the US ambassador in Vienna made clear to the Austrian chancellor’s office that Washington would quickly remove Austria from the list of countries that enjoy a visa waver for travel to the United States. Other countries, including Germany, had already quietly acquiesced to Washington’s firm wishes.

Washington is also demanding that its anti-terror officials be allowed to analyze cross-border payment transactions and all available date on individuals traveling to the US.

‘Completely Unacceptable’

But opposition to the demand is growing inside the European Parliament. Jan Philip Albrecht, a member of parliament with the Green Party, described the development as “completely unacceptable.” And his colleague Alexander Alvaro with the Free Democrats (known in the European Parliament as the Liberals), pledged strong resistance. He said Washington would not succeed in creating “see-through Europeans.”

Center-left Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats said they also wanted to draw the line on what is permissible and what is not. This summer, members of the European Parliament approved the so-called SWIFT agreement with the United States, but only with strict rules about how US officials can access data about financial transactions in Europe.

The original demands made by the US angered many politicians across Europe and an initial deal was halted until the European Parliament extracted concessions from Washington.


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