Tuesday, May 30, 2006

European Court of Justice ruling

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision today to annul the agreement between the EU commission and the US government on the transfer of passenger personal data is good news. The ECJ found that the agreement, which allowed airlines to hand over passenger data to the US government, was outside European Community law.

The ruling (which can be found here and is commented on this Times article) is good news as it highlights the importance of restricting government access to personal information.

However, because the decision is only based on the agreement being ultra vires, i.e. outside EC Law, it doesn't really protect European airplane passengers in the long run. The ECJ is really only saying that the Commission cannot make an agreement on behalf of all European states. The US could, therefore, pressure individual European countries into data transfer agreements.

The Council may also be able to pass a new data protection Directive without the consent of the European Parliament (I'm not certain, as I haven't studied EU Law yet).

Interestingly, the UK Conservative Party has criticized the ECJ's decision. Although criticism of an EU institution is the default position of the Tory party, shouldn't they applaud a decision that limits the scope of EC Law?


At 30 May, 2006 22:57, Blogger Kenneth Birch said...

I was very pleased when I read this news this morning. But you are probably right that the US will pressure individual states to hand over the data. I'm pretty sure we haven't seen the end of this--at least with the current political climate in the US. But it's definitely a step in the right direction.


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