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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Passenger data deal for US and EU
Aircraft in clouds near Nice
The EU has sought assurance over who can access the data
The US and the European Union have struck a new deal for sharing airline passenger data, after lengthy talks.

The interim agreement will replace a deal struck down by the European Court of Justice in May, which allowed the US its own access to passenger data.

Under the deal, the EU will "push" the data - 34 pieces of information per passenger - to the US, replacing the current "pull" system.

The US has sought information about air travellers since the 9/11 attacks.

EU officials described the deal, which came after nine hours of negotiations by video conference, as a "very important result" for the EU.

The previous deal lapsed on 1 October when both sides failed to agree on terms for a renewal. The new accord will expire at the end of July 2007.

Negotiations over a permanent deal will begin during an EU diplomatic visit to Washington in November.

Justice ministers from across the EU are scheduled to meet later on Friday to discuss the deal, which could be formally approved next week.

New safeguards

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said new mechanisms had been agreed to distribute data from airlines to the US.

This new agreement will provide a possibility of giving passenger data to the US authorities while guaranteeing sufficient data protection
Leena Luhtanen
Finnish justice minister

US officials will no longer be able to "pull" the information - which includes details on credit cards, passports, telephone numbers and even meal preferences - direct from airline computer systems, but will have it "pushed" to them.

The information will be sent to the US Department of Homeland Security, which will "facilitate" any wider distribution among other US counter-terrorism agencies, Mr Frattini said.

Civil liberties campaigners had argued that the amount of information collected is intrusive and that data protection once the details are in the US is weak, the BBC's Jonny Dymond reports.

It was the data protection issue that led to difficulties between the US and the EU.

The US wanted the information made available automatically to a number of different domestic agencies, but the EU wanted to be sure that if the information did move between agencies then it would remain secure, our correspondent says.

Addressing these concerns, Mr Frattini said the new deal allowed easier distribution of data, but would not allow "unconditional direct electronic access" by agencies such as the FBI.

The new "push" system would be tested before the end of the year, Mr Frattini said.

Fines concern

Airlines had been pushing for a new agreement ever since the 2004 version was ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice.

US law requires airlines to submit passenger information so government agencies can work to spot potential terrorists.

Carriers who fail to provide information are liable for fines of up to $6,000 (4,030) per passenger or withdrawal of landing rights.

Announcing the deal at a news conference in Luxembourg, Finland's Justice Minister Leena Luhtanen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the new agreement was the best solution for all sides.

"This new agreement will provide a possibility of giving passenger data to the US authorities while guaranteeing sufficient data protection," she said.

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