IT'S a disturbing thought that each time you take a weekend break in New York the American authorities acquire an average of 34 pieces of personal information about you: for instance, name, address, credit card details, travelling companions and phone numbers and no doubt your mother's maiden name as well. For the past two years European airlines have been providing this information to the US Department of Homeland Security before your plane touches down at Kennedy Airport. But not for much longer because this week the European Court of Justice ruled that the arrangement had no legal basis in European law and should be brought to an end. Recognising the serious implications of its ruling, the Court said that it should not take effect until September 30. From that date onwards the airlines transatlantic flights will be caught between a European rock and an American hard place. They cannot ask their passengers for their personal information but they cannot land them in the US without providing such information. No doubt some accommodation will be found by 29 September but the situation highlights the differing approaches to security of Europe and the United States. Although not everyone will agree with the European Court's judgment, it was reached in response to an appeal by the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament which does not think that US assurances about the security of the information provided by passengers can be relied on.
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