Monday, January 01, 2007

E.U. Air Passengers: Email Messages and Credit Card Records to be Scrutinized by U.S.?

The U.K's Telegraph reports on an agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. to permit American authorities to scrutinize air travellers' credit card records and email messages:

Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington.

By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.

The extent of the demands were disclosed in "undertakings" given by the US Department of Homeland Security to the European Union and published by the Department for Transport after a Freedom of Information request.

About four million Britons travel to America each year and the released document shows that the US has demanded access to far more data than previously realised.

Not only will such material be available when combating terrorism but the Americans have asserted the right to the same information when dealing with other serious crimes.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, expressed horror at the extent of the information made available. "It is a complete handover of the rights of people travelling to the United States," she said.

Happy 2007. Is even the pretense of respect for privacy rights now a thing of the past?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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