Air traffic has increased considerably in the last couple of decades; flying has become one of the most widespread modes of travel. Air carriers are collecting various passenger data in order to ensure the security of air travel, starting from who is travelling and with whom, all the way to the individual’s food preferences. These data are stored in a booking system, known under the abbreviation PNR (Passenger Name Records).
Starting from 1 January 2016 air carriers are going to forward the gathered booking information to the Police and Border Guard Board. The data will make up a single database BRIIS, i.e. the booking information system.
Nothing Changes for Passengers
Air carriers have been gathering and processing travellers’ personal data and travel-related booking information for decades. This information includes, for instance, travel dates, the itinerary, the ticket data, contact data, travel agencies’ contact data, information on means of payment, seating and luggage information.
The new requirements entering into effect on 1 January 2016 change nothing for passengers, everything is going to be the same as it has been so far. The only thing that will change for airlines is that they will be forwarding the collected data to the central database managed by the Police and Border Guard Board.
Personal Data are Protected
- The gathered booking records are processed only with a view to detect, investigate and prevent terrorist crimes and other major crimes.
- The system processes data automatically; only data that raise suspicion are forwarded to officials for checking.
- The system can be accessed by a limited number of officials who have an immediate professional need for it. These officials include the staff members of the Internal Security Service, the Information Board, the Police and Border Guard Board, and the Tax and Customs Board. In justified cases, users can also make additional enquiries to the system manually. Any activities of officials in the system are logged, and can be checked.
- Not all records can be accessed by officials – for instance an individual’s food preferences or medical indications are removed from the data reaching officials.
- Booking records are kept for 5 years, however, after 2 years personal data will be concealed and officials will not have access to them without a warrant linked to a case. After 5 years data will be automatically deleted from the system.
Interception of Criminals and Prevention of Crime
The number of international air passengers is growing every year. According to the data of the European Commission, the air passenger numbers have tripled in the period 1980–2000. By the year 2020 it is expected that the number of passengers will double compared to the current figures. According to Bank of Estonia data, in 2010 the total number of visits to Estonia amounted to 4.7 million, while in 2013 the figure exceeded 6 million. In turn, in 2013 Estonians visited other countries on 3.7 million occasions.
However, the popularity of air travel is taken advantage of by internationally operating criminals – drug and human traffickers, smugglers and the like.
Gathering booking information helps to intercept criminals and reveal criminal networks. This makes Estonia and the whole of Europe safer.
- Gathering air passenger information enables to identify fugitives, find associates of criminals and unravel criminal networks.
- International criminals have developed certain patterns of behaviour and movement in planning their trips and travelling, which can be used to work out criminal activities.
- The information system automatically analyses such coincidences and, when any is detected, notifies the officials who start investigating the case closer.
- Moreover, the booking information can be compared against other domestic and international databases for evidence collection purposes.
- BRIIS facilitates the efforts of law enforcement and security authorities targeted at ensuring security. These authorities already have the right to use passenger information for performing their duties, but such data need to be requested separately from air carriers, which makes the process labour and time-consuming.
Booking Information System BRIIS
BRIIS is a booking information system, which is linked with Estonian as well as international internal security databases. Cooperation helps to identify additional connections in case of suspected major crimes or terrorism.
Like Estonia, booking information systems will soon be introduced by 13 countries across the European Union. Among them are France, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition to these countries, booking information systems are being used in the United Kingdom, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. The European Parliament is currently reviewing a proposed directive which, if passed, will obligate all air carriers of the Member States to share the booking information with government agencies.
Countries, where booking records are already used for law enforcement purposes, have managed to intercept a number of individuals suspected of terrorism, drug traffickers, human traffickers and smugglers.
Development and implementation of the BRIIS information system is co-financed from the European Union’s foundation for the prevention of and fight against crime.