On 30 November 2018, the Belgian Council of Ministers approved a first draft of future legislation amending the Law of 25 December 2016 on the processing of passenger data (the “PNR Law”). The PNR Law sets out, inter alia, the obligations of the carrier and the travel agency concerning the transfer of passenger data to or from the territory of the Kingdom of Belgium as well as regulating the processing and the international exchange of such data by the Belgian Passenger Information Unit (“PIU”).

The proposed amendments concern:

  • the adaptation of the PNR Law following the entry into force of the Belgian Law of 30 July 2018 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data;
  • the removal of the requirement to have an agreement in place between the Belgian PIU and any international authority prior to the exchange of passenger data with the said international authority;
  • possibility of analysing during 24 hours data of passengers on board with regard to any passenger identified as a positive match by the automated processing of PNR data in order to verify i) that there is no other suspicious passenger on board and ii) the data of the passenger in question;
  • possibility for the Customs and Excise Administration to request access to passenger data in order to timely investigate customs offences;
  • the manner in which data is delivered to the relevant Belgian services by PIU of other Member States (i.e. any data received must be recorded in the database of the Belgian PIU).

This draft legislation has been communicated for comment to the Council of State and the Data Protection Authority. The opinion of the Data Protection Authority regarding the removal of the requirement to have in place an agreement between PIU and any international authority prior to exchanging passenger data may pose problems given that one of the main purposes of such agreements is precisely to regulate the protection of passenger data.

This draft legislation has been approved by the Belgian Council of Ministers a few months after the entry into force Law of 15 July 2018 amending the PNR Law and introducing, inter alia, the possibility for the police, state security, military Intelligence and Customs and Excises Administration to directly request passenger data from the PIU’s of other Member States.

By Charles Price & Sébastien Popijn