Irish Times
DENIS STAUNTON in Washington

New US visa deal depends on handing over personal data

The deal would mean exchanging data, including DNA and fingerprint records, and in some cases details of individuals’ political and religious beliefs and sexual orientation – even on people not planning to travel to the US.

Washington has already made such agreements with Germany and a number of central and eastern European countries that joined the waiver programme this year. Mr Chertoff said that renewing Ireland’s membership of the programme next year would be conditional on reaching a similar deal. “Yes, that’s part of the law,” he said.

Mr Chertoff was speaking after he signed an agreement with Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey introducing full pre-clearance facilities for flights from Dublin and Shannon to the US. Mr Dempsey told The Irish Times that he was not involved in any negotiations about a data-sharing deal but that membership of the visa waiver programme was so important to Ireland that the Government might have to agree to it.

“I think it is crucial for us. It’s certainly crucial in this context as well,” he said. “He gave you a very straightforward answer, that if you don’t agree to this, you don’t get it. I don’t think we’d be thanked for saying you can’t travel to the United States.”

The US-German agreement, which was signed last March and served as the basis for subsequent deals with other countries, states that each country’s authorities should have access to each other’s fingerprint databases and DNA profiles. If fingerprints or DNA profiles match those of someone suspected of committing or planning serious crimes, further personal data can be exchanged. The agreement does not limit the sharing of information to data on air travellers or on convicted or suspected criminals but defines personal data as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person” and Article 12 identifies “special categories” of personal information.

“Personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions or religious or other beliefs, trade union membership or concerning health and sexual life may only be provided if they are particularly relevant to the purposes of this Agreement,” it notes.

[….] each party to the agreement has broad scope in how it uses the data.

Full article

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