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Judge says EU-Canada air passenger deal infringes on rights

Associated Press Associated Press 8/09/2016 By LORNE COOK, Associated Press

BRUSSELS — A European Union judge says an EU agreement to exchange air passenger information with Canada to combat terrorism should be revised because parts of it would infringe on people's rights.

Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi said in a legal opinion published Thursday that the deal signed in 2014 should not enter force in its current form.

The agreement was referred to the EU's Court of Justice by the European Parliament over privacy concerns. Under it, Canadian authorities would have access to the data of European travelers like contact details, credit card and other personal information.

Mengozzi said parts of the agreement go beyond what is strictly necessary to prevent serious crime.

He believes the Passenger Name Record agreement would allow Canada to keep data for up to five years even though it might not be deemed necessary to prevent and detect terrorism or serious transnational crime.

He is also concerned that it would allow Canada to pass personal data on to another country without the necessary guarantees to ensure that the information would not be shared further.

Such legal opinions are not binding but they are respected by the Luxembourg-based EU court in most rulings.

The opinion was welcomed by Dutch EU lawmaker Sophie In 't Veld, who said it was "the umpteenth demonstration that sloppy law making is counterproductive."

"It is important that the storage and transfer of personal data is done correctly, and does not go beyond what it is strictly necessary," she said in a statement.

But the lawmaker responsible for chaperoning a similar intra-EU agreement through the European Parliament lashed out.

"This opinion is quite frankly irresponsible. Given the level of the threat you have to ask what planet some of these lawyers live on," said British parliamentarian Timothy Kirkhope. "Law enforcement authorities all say we are continually playing catch-up on information flow and analysis, and the (court) now risks setting back our efforts even further."

The European Commission, which helped draw up the deal, declined to comment. A spokeswoman said the EU's executive body would only do so once an official legal ruling was handed down.

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