Government Seeks Broader Disclosure of Passenger Data

Passengers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Airline passengers entering or leaving Israel may soon have their private information disclosed to the authorities for purposes of security and enforcement of coronavirus regulations, The Times of Israel revealed on Wednesday.

The Justice Ministry is reportedly in the midst of drafting legislation that would require airlines to share data such as credit card numbers used to pay for tickets, billing addresses and destinations.

The proposal, which has been under considerations for several years, now seems to be nearing finalization, though heavy opposition on privacy grounds is expected in the Knesset. Proponents note that its provisions are in line with standard policy in the United States and Europe.

Initial impetus for such a measure came from counter-terror efforts; but officials now seek it as a tool for tracking covid cases. Health officials want to know about travelers’ point of departure, as well as any stopovers and other possible destinations, in order to trace infection paths.

The database would contain PNRs, or passenger name records, which would include other details as well: the flight or flights they took, how the tickets were purchased and travel status, including seat location, how much luggage they check in or carry on, and any special requests like meals or other in-flight services.

A Justice Ministry spokesperson stressed that “the scope of the information that will be stored in the Israeli database will not be wider than is customary in the world, but will operate in accordance with the prevailing arrangements in the world on this issue, in accordance with the guidelines of the International Aviation Organization.”

Once the draft is completed, it will be submitted to the Knesset for debate and voting.