Canadian carriers resist U.S. proposal
Requirement for passenger data on overflights seems at odds with nation's laws on privacy
New York Times
OTTAWA - Canadian airlines are balking at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security plan that would require them to turn over information about passengers flying over the United States to reach another country.
The proposal, which appears at odds with Canada's privacy laws, would mostly involve Canadians who join the annual winter exodus to Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean.
"I appreciate and respect United States citizens' concern for their safety and security," said Fred Gaspar, the vice president of policy and strategic planning for the Air Transport Association of Canada. "But we need to understand what the gap is they need to fix. The only thing you can come up with is very, very generic language about the need for ensuring security. This is pretty dramatically offside with Canadian privacy laws."
The proposal is part of a broad U.S. Transportation Security Administration plan known as the Secure Flight Program. In September, the agency released rules it hopes to impose when it takes over from the airlines the job of matching passenger names with terrorism watch lists and no-fly lists.
In June, Canada put in effect its own no-fly list of potentially dangerous travelers. The Canadian program was developed after extensive consultation with the United States and came despite considerable criticism from some Canadian politicians and most privacy advocates.
Gaspar said that the Canadian airlines' understanding was that once Canada's program was under way, the only information they would have to give the United States would be about passengers headed to that country.
"Either the United States places no value whatsoever in the Canadian list, which it helped develop, or I have to suspect what's going on here is a pure and simple data-fishing exercise," Gaspar said.
Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says that despite promises that she would be consulted on safeguards for a no-fly list, her office still hasn't been briefed on the new plans announced...
Inclusion on the list would be limited to those who pose 'an immediate threat to aviation security.'
In the last two years, Transport Canada has received complaints from people whose names may have been matched to the U.S. roster.
''The technology is not quite proven,'' he said in an interview. ''There's no assurance that these programs will generate a lot more security.''