WikiLeaks: US concerned about German criticism of Passenger Name Recognition, Visa Waiver programsNewsBy Dennis Schaal | December 9, 2010Share This article was originally published on Finally, an important travel and data privacy angle in the WikiLeaks document dump.WikiLeaks published a confidential cable from the U.S. ambassador in Berlin in the run-up to the German federal election in September 2009 expressing concern about the Free Democratic Party's criticisms of the U.S.-European Union Passenger Name Recognition initiative and the U.S. Visa Waiver program."The FDP's voting record on counter-terrorism legislation and the views of leading FDP security policy figures described here suggest that cooperation on security matters, particularly those involving information sharing, with a future German government that includes the FDP could be problemmatic," wrote the U.S. ambassador in Berlin, Philip Murphy, to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and various governmental agencies on Sept. 21, 2009.Days later, in the German federal election on Sept. 27, 2009, the FDP won a record 93 seats, formed a ruling coalition with the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, and FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle became the country's foreign minister and vice chairman.This obviously wasn't the scenario that the U.S. ambassador was hoping for.The cable, headlined "Data Privacy Trumps Security: Implications Of A FDP Victory On Counterterrorism Co-operation," and published by WikiLeaks Nov. 28, 2010, outlined U.S. concerns on how a then-potential FDP role in the government would hamper U.S.-German data-sharing efforts in the war against terror."The FDP's criticisms of security-related data sharing agreements have also extended to the U.S.-Germany bilateral "Pruem-like" agreement to share personal information on serious crime and terrorism suspects (ref C), the U.S.-EU Passenger Name Recognition (PNR) initiative, and elements of the Visa Waiver Program that involve sharing information on travelers," the ambassdador wrote, according to the WikiLeaks document dump.The ambassador warned in particular that FDP parliamentarian Gisela Piltz, "who is a member of the Bundestag Interior Committee, has criticized the U.S.-EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) data transfer agreement for collecting 'pointless' information on travelers and she doubts whether the information collected under PNR would be of any value to law enforcement officials."The cable continues: In meetings with EconOffs, Piltz broadly spoke of governments, particularly that of the U.S., accumulating large amounts of data on their (mostly) innocent citizens. Piltz expressed concerns that German commercial interests could be damaged when U.S. authorities obtained PNR data on German business travelers that might somehow be shared with American competitors.Share this quote In October 2009, days after FDP gains in the federal election, Piltz became deputy chair of the FDP parliamentary group.In the cable, the ambassador also noted that Piltz "claimed that the U.S. government as a whole lacked effective data protection measures in comparison to Germany and questioned why the USG does not have a [sic] overall federal data protection commissioner as Germany does. Comment: Piltz's remark underscores the importance of ensuring German officials receive information about USG data protection policy."