The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service is collecting personal data from airline passengers coming to Switzerland from so-called “risk countries” , to check for terror threats, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper has revealed.
The list of the countries concerned has been approved by the cabinet, an intelligence serviceexternal link spokeswoman has confirmed to the newspaper, but remains confidential.
Data, which includes name, date and nationality, as well as country flown from and whether a passenger is flying alone or in a group, has been collected since 2011. In 2013 the intelligence service checked information coming from 511,000 arrivals, the newspaper said.
“The Federal Intelligence Service compares the data with existing knowledge to ascertain possible threats to internal or external security through a person entering [the country],” intelligence service spokeswoman Carolina Bohren told the NZZ am Sonntag.
The intelligence service obtains its information from the State Secretariat for Migration, which gains its data from airlines flying to Switzerland from certain destinations, the article said, adding that these were in eastern Europe, as well as in the Middle Eastern and African regions.
Collecting flight passenger data was a topic at a meeting of European Union justice and interior ministers in Riga, Latvia, at the end of January, which was attended by Swiss President and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommarugaexternal link.
Several participants at the event called for the introduction of a European register for airline passenger data as an important way of combatting terror threats. The EU has been working on such a project for some time, but has been held up by opposition - for data protection reasons - from some members of the European Parliament.
Switzerland has been handing over air passenger data to the United States and Canada since 2005 about people travelling from its airports to North America. This includes information on the address, as well as hotel and hire car bookings, of the passenger in question.