[pp.int.general] EFF: European Lawmaker Sues U.S. Agencies to Obtain Travel-Related and Other Personal Information

sjau sjau at sjau.ch
Tue Jul 1 19:49:05 CEST 2008

Hi everybody

Here's a nice article on EFF today: 

As you may be aware, just a few days ago  it was made public thatthat the U.S. 
and the European Union may soon make an agreement on exchanging travel data.

Anyway, here's the article. On the homepage you also have links to the full 
complaint and other related things:


European Lawmaker Sues U.S. Agencies to Obtain Travel-Related and Other 
Personal Information
Lawsuit Tests U.S. Assurances of Access Rights for EU Citizens

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit on 
behalf of a member of the European Parliament today, demanding that the U.S. 
government release records about her "risk assessment" score and other 
information gathered about her during her international travels. The lawsuit 
comes just days after the disclosure that the U.S. and the European Union may 
soon finalize an agreement authorizing the transatlantic exchange of large 
amounts of personal data.

Sophia In 't Veld represents the Netherlands in the European Parliament and 
serves on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs. She 
has been actively engaged in developing policies concerning the exchange of 
travelers' data between the U.S. and the European Union (EU).

During the ongoing and contentious debates between the U.S. and the EU over 
travelers' records and the privacy rights of EU citizens, the U.S. government 
has repeatedly claimed that any person can obtain her records through a 
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. To test those assurances, In 't 
Veld filed FOIA requests with the Homeland Security, Justice, and State 
Departments, asking for any information about her that is included in the 
various U.S. programs and systems used to track international travelers. 
However, the agencies have failed to comply with the requests as required by 
federal law.

"The question of redress is the sticking point in the current discussions 
about data exchanges between the United States and the EU," said In 't 
Veld. "That dispute underscores the importance of this case; it shows that 
gaining access to personal data held by U.S. agencies is very difficult, if 
not impossible."

Among other records, In 't Veld specifically requested data about herself that 
is included in the Automated Targeting System (ATS) -- a Department of 
Homeland Security project that creates and assigns "risk assessment" scores 
to travelers as they enter and leave the U.S. Once the assessment is made, 
there is no way to challenge it, and the government will retain the 
information for many years -- as well as make it available to federal, state, 
local, and foreign agencies in addition to contractors, grantees, 
consultants, and others.

"Ms. In 't Veld's experience shows the inaccuracy of U.S. assurances that EU 
citizens can gain easy access to personal information held in agency 
databases," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The truth is that it is 
virtually impossible for any individuals --even U.S. citizens -- to access 
information about themselves that is collected and maintained by American 
security agencies. It's important that EU officials and citizens understand 
the reality of the situation before moving forward with a sweeping agreement 
on the exchange of sensitive personal data."

This FOIA lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect travelers from 
privacy-invasive programs at the U.S. border. EFF has also filed suit against 
DHS for denying access to public records on the questioning and searches of 
travelers at U.S. borders and called on Congress to investigate the random, 
suspicionless searches of laptops and electronic devices.



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