London, Jan 1 (PTI) Travelers from UK and Europe will have their credit card and email messages inspected by United States authorities following a deal struck between Brussels and Washington, according to media reports today.
By using a credit card to book flights, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by American officials, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.
The extent of the demands were disclosed in "undertakings" given by the US Department of Homeland Security to the European Union and published by the Department for Transport after a Freedom of Information request.
About four million Britons travel to America each year and the document released shows that the US has demanded access to far more data than previously realised.
Not only will such material be available when combating terrorism but the Americans have asserted the right to the same information when dealing with other serious crimes.
A Department for Transport spokesman said, "Every airline is obliged to conform with these rules if they wish to continue flying. As part of the terms of carriage, it is made clear to passengers what these requirements are. The US government has given undertakings on how this data will be used and who will see it." Washington has promised to "encourage" US airlines to make similar information available to EU governments rather than force them to do so, the report said.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, expressed horror at the extent of the information made available. "It is a complete handover of the rights of people traveling to the US," she said. As Americans tightened security after the September 11 attacks, they demanded that airlines provide comprehensive information about passengers before allowing them to land.
But this triggered a dispute that came to a head last year in a Catch 22 situation. On one hand they were told they must provide the information, on the other they were threatened with heavy fines by EU governments for breaching European data protection legislation.
In October, Brussels agreed to sweep away the "bureaucratic hurdles" preventing airlines handing over this material after European carriers were threatened with exclusion from the US. The newly-released document sets out the rules underpinning the deal.
As a result the Americans are entitled to 34 separate pieces of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data - all of which must be provided by airlines from their computers.
Much of it is routine but some elements will prove more contentious, such as a passenger's email address, whether they have a previous history of not turning up for flights and have any religious dietary requirements.
(THROUGH ASIA PULSE)