Travel database is invasive and unnecessary

Jo today challenged the government to reveal details of its E-Borders scheme, which threatens the privacy of Britons travelling abroad.

The government’s E-borders programme, which is to be implemented in stages over the next five years, will require everyone travelling in and out of the UK to register personal details on a national database, including passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans. Failure to register details could result in criminal prosecution or a fine of up to £5,000.

The government has not yet released a full list of which personal details will be required or for how long they will be kept. Jo challenged the Minister to reveal this information in the House of Commons today.

The European Convention on Human Rights states that any interference in the privacy of individuals must be “necessary in a democratic society” in order to be legal. Campaigners believe the E-Borders database is likely to be in breach of this law.

Commenting, Jo said:

“There are good reasons why the government might want to keep some details of travel in out of the country for security reasons, but requiring sensitive financial information and asking where people will be staying and with whom is just unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, many people do not trust the government to keep their personal details safe, and do not want to experience even longer check-in times when they travel. The government needs to reveal the full details of this plan and how it will be implemented, so that an informed public debate can be had on the issue.”

The text of Jo’s question appears below:

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Although some aspects of the new e-Borders system, such as reinstating exit checks, are welcome, there is widespread concern about the extent of the data that will be collected, so will the Secretary of State clarify exactly what information will need to be provided by innocent citizens travelling abroad, and for how long it will be held?

Mr. Woolas: I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to answer that question. The e-Borders programme has been running for four years, and the data collected and the use to which they are put is and has been available for some time on the Home Office website and in agency information. I can reassure the hon. Lady that the data are not misused, as some have rather mischievously alleged, but I come back to my point in answer to the spokesman for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), that immigration controls and management are possible only if there is counting in and counting out, which requires a data base.

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