Why is passenger data collected?
This measure is part of the fight against terrorism and serious and organised crime: It is one of the 18 priority measures announced by the Federal Government after the Paris attacks in 2015 and is based on the European Directive on the use of passenger name record data. As reservation data of passengers is collected in a Passenger Name Record (PNR), it is referred to as the collection of PNR data.
Suspects of terrorist or other serious crimes often have specific and rapidly changing travel patterns. Passenger data plays an important role in mapping travel movements, gathering evidence and uncovering criminal networks. PNR data is analysed against pre-defined criteria, cross-checked against various databases of persons sought and used for targeted searches.
The effective use of this data offers significant added value for our internal security, contributing to the prevention of terrorism and serious crime and to the detection and investigation of suspicious patterns and the monitoring of suspicious persons. The processing of this data is subject to strict guarantees for the protection of privacy.
What can the government use PNR data for?
The purpose of collecting passenger data is to detect and prosecute serious infringements and offences. The offences for which the processing of passenger data may be used are defined in Section 8 of the Act on the processing of passenger data. These include, for instance, terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, child trafficking, industrial espionage, cybercrime or murder.
What is the legal basis?
The Act on the processing of passenger data is a transposition of the aforementioned European Directive and establishes the basis for the processing of passenger data. Belgian legislation applies to air transport, high-speed trains, international bus transport, maritime passenger transport, tour operators and travel agencies for international journeys to or through Belgium, both within and outside the European Union. The Act only enters into force for a given sector after publication of the corresponding Royal Decree. When drafting this Royal Decree, the specificities of each sector are taken into account as much as possible.
The Royal Decree of 18 July 2017 implements the Act for the airline sector, coming into force for any airline operating flights from, to or through Belgium when it has received an official notice and on the date specified in this notice. The next steps will consist, in the first instance, of drafting a Royal Decree for the high-speed train sector and a Royal Decree for the international bus sector and, in the second instance, of drafting a Royal Decree for international maritime passenger transport.
What data is collected?
PNR data is data that is communicated by the passengers themselves, and collected and stored by the carrier and/or tour operator. It is up to each company to decide whether they will collect a minimum amount of data (e.g. name, itinerary booked, tour operator with whom the transport was booked, etc.) or request additional information (e.g. e-mail address, telephone number, etc.).
The data that the Belgian government may collect is limited by law. It is important to note that sensitive information, such as food preferences or religion, may not be held by governments, and that carriers and tour operators will not be required to collect more data than the data they have. The Belgian Act on the processing of passenger data sets out an exhaustive list of data which may be collected by the authorities:
- the PNR file location code;
- the date of booking and issue of the ticket;
- the planned travel dates;
- the surnames, first names and date of birth;
- the address and contact details (telephone number, e-mail address);
- the payment information, including the billing address;
- the complete travel itinerary for the passenger concerned;
- the information on 'registered travellers', in particular those participating in a frequent traveller loyalty scheme;
- the travel agency or the travel agent;
- the status of the traveller, including confirmations, check-in status, no-show or go-show information;
- the instructions regarding split or divided PNR information;
- the general comments, including all available information on unaccompanied minors under 18 years;
- the information regarding the ticket issue, including the ticket number, the date of issue, one-way tickets and the Automated Ticket Fare Quote;
- the seat number and other information relating to the seat;
- the information regarding shared flight numbers;
- all luggage information;
- the number and names of other passengers in the PNR;
- all Advance Passenger Information (API) data collected and listed in Section 9, § 2 of the Act;
- all previous changes to the information listed under 1° to 18°.
The API data (Advance Passenger Information) comes from official documents, such as a passport or identity card, and is sufficiently accurate to identify a person. This data is requested during the check-in process or when boarding a means of transport.
It concerns the following data:
- type of identity document;
- number of the identity document;
- country of issue of the identity document;
- expiry date of the identity document;
- surname, first name, sex, date of birth;
- carrier/tour operator;
- number of the transport;
- date of departure, date of arrival;
- place of departure, place of arrival;
- time of departure, time of arrival;
- total number of persons carried;
- seat number;
- the PNR file location code;
- number, weight and identification of items of luggage;
- border crossing point of entry into the national territory.
What is the difference between routes within and outside the EU?
API data is only collected for transport outside the EU (e.g. Brussels to Washington D.C.), in order to comply with border formalities. PNR data is collected and transmitted both for movements outside and inside the EU.
In time, your data will therefore be stored when you travel abroad by plane, high-speed train, bus or boat. It will be possible to analyse this data. As far as domestic transport is concerned, nothing will change. Passenger data is collected for cross-border transport only.
What should I remember as a passenger?
To avoid problems when you get on the plane, you should check that the details you enter when making the booking are correct. Bring an identity document with you when you go to the boarding point.
What are the guarantees for the protection of my privacy?
- The Act on the processing of passenger data, in line with the PNR Directive, defines the purposes of the processing of passenger data very clearly.
- The Passenger Information Unit protects the data in a secure environment.
- The members of the Unit have a security clearance commensurate with the tasks they are required to perform, and all their actions in the passenger database are recorded so that it can be verified that the purpose of their searches falls within the scope of the Act.
- The Act on the processing of passenger data prohibits the collection and use of sensitive data. Data relating to a person's racial or ethnic origin, religious or philosophical beliefs, political opinions, trade union membership or data concerning their state of health, sex life or sexual orientation may not be requested or stored.
- PNR data is depersonalised after 6 months so that the data subject can no longer be immediately identified in the BelPIU database.
- The data is kept for five years. Then it is automatically removed from the database.
- The transfer of PNR data to other EU Member States and third countries is possible only under very strict conditions.
- A Data Protection Officer (DPO) is appointed to ensure that these various measures are respected.
- Any question relating to the processing of your personal data can be sent to the DPO at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org, DPO – Leuvenseweg 1, B-1000 Brussels.
- To exercise the rights recognised by the data protection legislation, one can turn to BelPIU's lead official (email@example.com) and, where appropriate, to Standing Committee I.
- Passenger Name Record (PNR): record of each passenger's travel details which enables the carrier or tour operator to make reservations for each journey (e.g. name, address, telephone number).
- Advance Passenger Information (API): registration details of a passenger which includes the name and number of an identity document. This data is sufficiently accurate to identify a person.
- Act of 25 December 2016 on the processing of passenger data.
- BelPIU: Belgian Passenger Information Unit, created to collect, store and process the passenger data transmitted by carriers and tour operators.
- Data of passengers from, to and in transit in Belgium for the following sectors:
- air traffic
- bus transport
- high-speed trains
- passenger ships
- tour operators and travel agencies
- A Royal Decree per sector determines the way in which the data is collected and transmitted.
- The data is depersonalised after six months and kept for a maximum of five years.