Hey, as the recent Boston Marathon bombings made clear, the US and Russia are both beset by more-or-less the same terrorist threats, right?* So why shouldn’t Russia gain access to the same sort of detailed incoming airline passenger data – credit card numbers, names and addresses of contacts at their incoming destination, and the like – that the American authorities now get?
That’s what the Russian government is now demanding, as we learn from that tweeted article from Süddeutsche Zeitung Brussels correspondent Javier Cárceres. And it wants such access beginning 1 July.
That’s a problem though: the important thing the Americans have that the Russians don’t is a data-protection agreement they worked out prior with EU authorities, so that at least some sort of control is agreed about where such data goes on to after it is delivered. In fact, it’s illegal in the EU to provide that without a data protection agreement in place – and it’s unlikely that such an agreement can be concluded in the less than a month that remains before that 1 July deadline. (By the way, this decree from the Russian Transport Minister applies to passengers of any vehicle entering Russian territory – airplane, but also train, bus, ship.)
So now airlines that fly to or over Russia have a problem: if the decree does go through, they won’t legally be able to deliver the data the Russian authorities will be demanding to authorize their flight. But perhaps top-level EU and Russian authorities were able to make progress on this question at the EU-Russia summit that concluded yesterday (4 June) in Yekaterinburg, Russia. We’ll presumably find out soon – but don’t get your hopes up. Before being blindsided by this Russian government announcement, the EU representation had expected to go to the summit in part to discuss measures to make EU visas easier to get for Russian citizens – and vice-versa. This goal has hardly been made any easier by the Russian move.
And remember the demonstration effect, as well: an MEP is further quoted in this piece about how Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also thinking about demanding similar information about passengers coming to their lands.
* Yes, of course this assertion is ridiculous.