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Germany

German Official Criticizes U.S. Demands For Passenger Data

Germany's chief data privacy says that the United States is demanding too much data from airlines about passengers, and the issue risks splitting the European Union. "They want too much data, for too long and for unspecified purposes," Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar said in an interview with Reuters. In December, the EU Commission agreed to hand over passenger data to Washington for use in tracking suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. However, the European Parliament, which has questioned the U.S. offer of "adequate" privacy safeguards, could challenge the EU executive's decision at a vote scheduled for later this month. Schaar said he foresaw a conflict of interest between the commission and the parliament, and said the issue could be handed over to the European Court of Justice. Schaar criticized Washington's efforts to compile lists of data on new arrivals in the name of national security and stressed the war against terrorists cannot take priority over civil liberties. Data protection is a sensitive topic in Germany, where the memory of the totalitarian Nazi and communist regimes led to the creation of strict privacy laws. Just last week the German constitutional court ordered the government to tighten rules for telephone surveillance by security agencies.

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