The New York Times reports on European air travelers’ concerns with the privacy of their personal data in the United States, the terrorism watchlists, and the possible creation of enduring profiles that would follow travelers throughout their lives:
While airline passenger records are perhaps the most prominent privacy issue confronting Europeans, because of the thousands of Europeans who make frequent visits to the United States, there are other worries, from efforts to prevent the Internet colossus Google from rolling out its StreetView mapping service across Europe to resistance to demands from the U.S. government for access to banking records as part of what it says are efforts to track terrorist financing.
Computer breaches affecting information about organ donations in Britain and the public disclosure of names, addresses, ages and phone numbers of railway passengers in France have only accentuated concerns among Europeans that governments and companies cannot be trusted to keep potentially sensitive information under lock and key.
But for Obama administration officials, the outcry has come to represent an unnecessary obstacle in the fight against terrorism, an obstacle they see as created by a handful of activists and politicians who complain loudly about practices that are valuable and have created no concrete instances of abuse. […]
More recently, civil liberties groups in Europe have grown increasingly wary of the way the authorities can cross-reference different databases to create richer profiles of individuals. Those groups warn that such techniques could be used to draw conclusions about the religious beliefs of individuals who might not know they were being targeted as potential extremists. […]
The European Commission, the E.U. executive arm, concluded this month that “improvement seems necessary and advisable” in the way the passenger information is being used. In particular, the commission wants the United States to revise the accord to give Europeans the ability to sue in U.S. courts to see their records and have them changed.