German Society for Civil Rights submits PNR Directive to the highest European court
Berlin/Cologne, January 20, 2020 – On January 20th, 2020, the District Court of Cologne, Germany, submitted to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) the question whether the European Passenger Name Record Directive (PNR Directive) violates fundamental rights. The Society for Civil Rights (Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, GFF) initiated the proceedings against the directive, which allows for authorities to analyse and store personal data of all people who take an international flight in Europe.
GFF considers the PNR Directive to violate the right to the protection of personal data and the right to respect for private and family life. Thus, GFF supports several individuals filing complaints against the airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG transferring their data to the German Federal Criminal Police Office. The plaintiffs bringing charges before the Cologne District Court include Kathalijne Buitenweg, a member of the Dutch parliament, as well as the German net activist Kübra Gümüşay and the lawyer Franziska Nedelmann.
“It is an important step that the Cologne court refers the matter to the European Court of Justice”, says Malte Spitz, Secretary General of GFF. “It is completely disproportionate to treat all passengers throughout Europe as suspects. The dragnet investigation in the sky must be stopped.”
Under the PNR directive, EU member states must, since May 2018, oblige airlines to pass on data on their passengers flying to and from the EU to government agencies. Like all other EU member states, Germany has extended this obligation to all international flights, in order to include intra-European flights. In Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) stores and processes the passenger name records. These data records contain a large amount of sensitive information, including the date of birth, the names of accompanying persons, the means of payment used to purchase the flight ticket and an unspecified text field which the airline fills in independently. In addition to automatically comparing the data with police databases, the BKA intends to use automated pattern recognition to identify suspicious flight movements in the future. As a result, any person whose profile happens to appear suspicious will have to expect increased police checks or even arrests. This is because the error rates of the algorithms will be considerable.
“Such collateral damage cannot be justified under the rule of law,” says Bijan Moini, a lawyer at GFF. “The state must act in a targeted manner instead of hoping for random hits.”
The CJEU stopped a similar PNR agreement between the EU and Canada with its Opinion 1/15 of 26 July 2017. “According to the European Court of Justice, data on all kinds of people cannot simply be stored for years without good reason,” says Moini. “We are confident that the Court will follow our arguments and rule that the PNR Directive is incompatible with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”
GFF has initiated several strategic lawsuits, partly directed against the airlines, partly directed against the BKA in order to have the PNR Directive reviewed by the CJEU. These proceedings are being conducted by attorney Prof. Dr. Remo Klinger. In Austria, the GFF partner organization epicenter.works is also taking action against data storage and processing. In a further case in Belgium, the Belgian Constitutional Court has also submitted the Belgian law implementing the PNR Directive to the ECJ.
Further information on the case is available at: https://nopnr.eu
For further information, please contact:
Daniela Turß, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Society for Civil Rights lodged a constitutional complaint against BND surveillance under the so-called G 10 at the end of 2016; this is a legal provision related to the surveillance of foreigners abroad currently under dispute.