Data of a person travelling to the USA have already arrived there before the plane takes off in Germany. For a couple of years, air carriers are obliged to transfer their passengers’ booking data electronically in advance to US authorities.
Data of a person travelling to the USA have already arrived there before the plane takes off in Germany. For a couple of years, air carriers are obliged to transfer their passengers’ booking data electronically in advance to US authorities. Those data are supplemented with information collected at the airport and with details the passengers have to enter in the green form “I-94 W” during their flight. For example, questions that have to be answered are: “Have you ever been or are you currently involved in acts of espionage or of sabotage or in genocide?” or “Have you ever dealt with drugs? Do you want to enter the country with the intention to commit criminal or immoral acts?” Passengers are also asked about criminal convictions, mental disabilities, drug addiction and contagious diseases (such as an HIV infection) and further highly sensitive infor-mation.
That form will be replaced soon by an electronic travel permit (electronic system for travel authorisation – ESTA). Beginning January 2009, all travellers who are not subject to any visa requirement have to make an online transfer of their data by the ESTA form 72 hours before the start of their journey.
ESTA asks for the same information like form I-94 W. In addition, it also asks for the e-mail address and the telephone number. By the conversion to an electronic procedure those data gain a new quality, because it is much more easy to evaluate, transfer and connect them. In addition, in the future, it is intended to retain those data for 75 years (up to now for 12 years).
Many questions still remain unanswered: What will happen if passengers provide inadvertently incorrect information? How will it be possible to prevent a third person from filling in wrong information by using my name? How will it be possible to correct data which change, such as the name by marriage? Indications about diseases that have long since been cured cannot be erased and will be retained for 75 years at US authorities. Travellers even do not have a chance to know which information they provided during a previous entry into the country. It remains absolutely in the dark which authorities – also from third countries – get knowledge of those data and for which purposes they will be finally used. Therefore, there is no transparency at all. The fact that third persons can provide information on behalf of passengers, for example an employer on behalf of his staff in connection with business trips, has also not been thoroughly considered. In this way, third persons come to know highly sensitive information which is not their business.
The millions of passengers travelling each year to the country whose symbol is the Stature of Liberty, have a right to clear answers to those questions.