Passengers data surveillance is now operational in Belgium. Such is the message which was passed on Monday by the minister of Security and Interior, Jan Jambon, who was accompanied by the directors of the Federal police, the intelligence services, and Customs Department, as well as by the European Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King.
Soon after the Paris attacks in 2015, the Federal government had singled out the setting up of a PNR (Passenger Name Record) system as one of its top priorities, in spite of the fact that discussions about that system at the European level were getting into deep water. Moreover, Belgium was determined to go further, keeping close watch also over the transmission of data for travelers by road, sea or rail.
A “Passenger Information Unit” (PIU) cell was created within the SPF Intérieur crisis center. It gathers about thirty persons temporally assigned by the four services involved. To date, the data transmission has started for 28% of the air passengers in Belgium. In 2019, all the air companies are expected to be connected to the database. Dialogue is ongoing for the other sectors. A pilot project is being announced for the Eurostar, which connects Belgium and Great Britain. Another should be launched with the bus company Flixbus.
The passengers’ data arrive in the BellPU database 48 hours before departure, as well as at the time of departure, and are analyzed either on the basis of a list of already known individuals, or according to a profiling process. Within three months, 414 “matches” were made, relating to different forms of criminal activity. This Monday morning, a drug seizure was thus made possible.