E-Borders

Immigration officials have the power to record details of all people entering and leaving the UK.

These powers were extended in 2006 with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, which created new powers for the police to collect data on travellers and extended powers to collect travellers' information in advance of travel.

Information that is collected includes basic travel details such as a passenger's name, gender, date of birth, nationality and passport number etc. However, it can also
include more personal information about a passenger's booking or reservation, including:

  • A person’s email address;
  • The method of payment used to buy the airline ticket (including the number of any credit or debit card used);
  • Any frequent flyer numbers used;
  • Previous travel;
  • General remarks (which could include anything, including any health concerns);
  • Service System Information (which can include special food requests, e.g. vegetarian or kosher meals).

The type of information that can be required can also be extended by an order made by the Secretary of State.

A passenger is also required to provide certain information and, if they do not, they will potentially not be able to travel, as some of this information must be provided in advance of travel.

Information will also be checked against agency watch lists and will be used to identify suspects, enforce judicial orders that impose travel restrictions and provide evidence of travel history and movements for judicial proceedings.

The data is held on a central electronic database, and data will routinely be retained for five years, and sometimes much longer.

While we appreciate the need to properly regulate our borders, the e-Borders scheme raises a number of concerns over:

  • The broad amount and nature of information collected on each traveller;
  • The number of bodies that can collect and have access to such information;
  • The centralisation of the data and the aim of using this information for data mining and profiling purposes; and
  • The long periods for which it can be retained.