Stewart Baker, Nathan Sales
Date Posted: March 2009
This short essay uses a recent case study - the controversy surrounding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's access to European airline reservation data - as a vehicle for exploring the European Union's new enthusiasm for projecting its data-privacy values globally. We begin by discussing how DHS uses passenger name records, or "PNR," to detect potential terrorist operatives. We then examine the legal authorities under which passenger data is collected and used, including domestic constitutional and statutory norms as well as principles of international law. Next, the essay discusses the hostile response of some EU policymakers to DHS's use of reservation data, and offers possible explanations for their efforts to apply European data-privacy principles to American national-security initiatives. Finally, we propose solutions to transatlantic conflicts that will help preserve both individual privacy and national autonomy.