By Bruno Waterfield
Britons flying anywhere in Europe will have sensitive personal information handed over to the police authorities in all 27 EU countries under a new air travel surveillance system.
Telephone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, email and other details of British air travellers will be available on demand for all of the EU’s police forces, including countries such as Bulgaria and Romania where corruption among law enforcement officials is widespread.
The system, billed on Wednesday as an anti-terrorism measure, will track all travellers and will also allow any EU police officer access to the data on suspicion of a serious crime, including offences that are not a crime in Britain.
Civil liberties campaigners fear the new EU surveillance system will make Britons more vulnerable to miscarriages of justice amid growing concern over EU policing measures and the lack of safeguards or judicial standards in some European countries.
MPs have also been angered that the government is actively negotiating, alongside France, to hand over the information without first informing the House of Commons, making a “charade” of ministerial promises not give up justice powers to the EU without parliamentary approval.
Guy Herbert, of the No2ID campaign group, said the measure was about “about greed for surveillance” not fighting terrorism.
“Everything that that is needed to determine anything about you is included. It allows you to be tracked wherever you go. It enables state agencies to build a complete picture of the lives of those of us who travel and puts the information in the hands of a completely unaccountable bureaucracy,” he said.
Baroness Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said: “We must not accept ‘mission creep’ whereby police and border authorities can use the data too widely, for instance in investigation of crimes which are not the most serious.”
Damian Green, the minister for immigration, defended the idea of collecting passenger name records (PNR) for all EU air travellers by 2012.
“The ability to collect and process PNR data is a vital tool for law enforcement and national security,” he said. “The government will be looking carefully at the EU directive before making a decision about whether to opt in.”
But The Daily Telegraph has learned that Britain has already effectively “opted-in” by joining France, Denmark and Sweden in negotiations with the European Commission to ensure that the PNR data is collected for all European flights, a development that has angered MPs.
Research carried out by the Open Europe pressure group has shown that the coalition government has decided not to wield its veto over European policing measures by actively “opting-in” to two thirds of EU justice proposals since last June.
“Too often, the UK’s supposed veto over joining EU crime and justice laws is only a little more than a charade and this government has continued to transfer powers over these areas to the EU at a worrying rate,” said Mats Persson, Open Europe’s director.