Sky grid search: ECJ should decide on passenger data storage

Since May 2018, the state has been collecting passenger data in Germany for five years and comparing it with security files. This controversial practice is now becoming a case for the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Cologne District Court asked the Luxembourg judges whether the encroachment on the fundamental rights of travelers was compatible with EU law.

Several people such as the Dutch MP Kathalijne Buitenweg and from Germany the network activist Kübra Gümüşay and the lawyer Franziska Nedelmann sued in May with the support of the Society for Freedom Rights (GFF) inter alia before the Cologne District Court and the Wiesbaden Administrative Court against the automated transfer of passenger data by airlines such as Lufthansa to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). You are certain that the so-called Passenger Name Records (PNR) of all international passengers will be saved and analyzed in bulk on the basis of the relevant EU directive. In their view, this violates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

GFF General Secretary Malte Spitz welcomed the move by the Cologne judges, since the civil rights activists would have achieved the intermediate goal they had aimed for. "Treating all passengers across Europe as suspects is completely disproportionate," said the Green. "The grid search in the sky must be stopped."

The PNR includes a lot of sensitive information, which ranges from the date of birth to the names of the accompanying persons, possible frequent flyer numbers or the means of payment used to buy the flight to an unspecified free text field. In addition to an automatic comparison with police databases, according to the GFF, the BKA wants to detect suspicious flight movements through automated pattern recognition. As a result, every person whose profile appears to be suspiciously by accident must expect increased police controls or even arrest.

The error rates of the algorithms are likely to be high, estimates Bijan Moini, a lawyer with the civil rights organization. "Such collateral damage cannot be justified under the rule of law." The state must act in a targeted manner "instead of hoping for chance hits".

The CJEU ruled in 2017 that the planned, very similar agreement on the exchange of passenger data with Canada violates fundamental European rights. In another case in Belgium, the Constitutional Court there has meanwhile also passed the national law implementing the PNR directive there to the ECJ. Another lawsuit as part of the "No PNR" initiative runs in Austria.


. (tagsToTranslate) Federal Criminal Police Office (t) Airline (t) GFF (t) Society for Freedom Rights (t) Passenger Name Records (t) Rasterfahndung