United States and European authorities, looking for more tools to detect terrorist plots, want to expand the screening of international airline passengers by digging deep into a vast repository of airline itineraries, personal information and payment data.
A proposal by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would allow the United States government not only to look for known terrorists on watch lists, but also to search broadly through the passenger itinerary data to identify people who may be linked to terrorists, he said in a recent interview.
Similarly, European leaders are considering seeking access to this same database, which contains not only names and addresses of travelers, but often their credit card information, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and related hotel or car reservations.
[…] â€œThis is a confirmation of our warnings that once you let the camelâ€™s nose under the tent, it takes 10 minutes for them to want to start expanding these programs in all different directions,â€ said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Germany, owing largely to its Nazi past, has been reluctant to pursue more aggressive antiterrorism measures that are standard in Britain and the United States. Berlin and other cities have far fewer surveillance cameras than does London, and the government does not keep a central antiterrorism database.
Now, though, there is widening support for more sweeping measures, specifically in the area of video surveillance and the collection of data on suspicious people.
â€œWe must continue to discuss the balance between video surveillance, which Iâ€™m totally in favor of, data protection and the restriction of certain rights,â€ Mrs. Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin.
[…] It is inevitable, Mr. Tophoven said, that Germany would install a surveillance network as extensive as that in Britain. There are already some video cameras in train stations and along the autobahn.
The scope of the proposed antiterrorism database remains in dispute. Germanyâ€™s data-protection commission would support a database that included basic information, like names, addresses and motor vehicle registrations, according to a spokeswoman, Ira von Wahl.
But a richer database â€” known as a full-text database â€” would raise privacy concerns, Ms. von Wahl said, by making a wide range of personal information available to the police and other authorities.
The government will not require recorders in autos but said on Monday that car makers must tell consumers when technology that tracks speed, braking and other measurements is in the new vehicles they buy.
[…] Privacy experts complained that consumer interests are not fully protected and information captured by recorders can be exploited.