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US tells Swiss to hand over passenger data

Passengers travelling to the US could soon be forced to hand over more personal information Keystone

The United States has issued Switzerland's national airline, Swiss, with an ultimatum to comply with new regulations demanding greater information on incoming passengers.

This content was published on September 5, 2003 - 19:12

Swiss has until September 12 to adhere to the regulation or face losing its landing rights in the US, according to Urs Haldimann from the Swiss Civil Aviation Office.

Switzerland has asked the US to delay the deadline to allow time for negotiation on an issue which has outraged data protection groups.

US authorities want Swiss to furnish them with personal details of all passengers including their religion and dietary preferences.

Switzerland wants to negotiate alongside the European Union which is also under pressure to hand over passenger data.

“We are hopeful that we can be granted a delay,” Celestine Perissinotto, a spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Office, told swissinfo.

Ultimatum

However, if the US goes ahead with its ultimatum, Haldimann said the government would inform passengers travelling on the national carrier that “the information they provide will be sent to a third party and that the situation is beyond Switzerland’s control”.

The Swiss Data Protection Commission said in July that the US regulation was forcing Swiss to break Switzerland's own data protection laws.

Hanspeter Thür, the head of the commission, said the measure reduced US commitment to data protection to the level of many developing countries.

Washington has demanded that all foreign aviation companies hand over more detailed passenger information, as part of its fight against terror. It wanted to be able to consult reservation data on Swiss planes, a move Switzerland opposed since it contravened privacy laws.

swissinfo with agencies

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