Thursday, June 01, 2006
Europe has strong privacy laws, and it seems that a European Court ruling may block an agreement by European air carriers to provide personal identifying information of US-bound passengers to the US government. I agree that commercial entities should not be releasing passengers' personal information without their consent. However, it seems to me that the simple solution to the problem is to require consent to such release as a condition of passage. When you buy an airline ticket, you already consent to all sorts of boilerplate terms, the "fine print" that used to be printed on the back of paper tickets (when we still had paper tickets). Just add to the boilerplate something to the effect of "I consent for the airline to release my personal information as required by the government of my destination country." That should be sufficient to meet the requirements of even European privacy laws. The US is certainly entitled to know who exactly is flying into our country, and no foreigner has a "right" to travel here without providing required identification. Anyone who is not content to have their name, address, phone number, and credit card info transmitted to the US prior to their departure can simply choose not to come here. European passengers' right to privacy stops at our border.