The recent pandemic has made tracking of health information a mandate across many major sectors along with other personal data. Aviation industry, being one of the most active and sought after, has faced multiple challenges to incorporate the new laws, especially the ones pertaining to Data Privacy.
These rules vary across countries and are often inconsistent with each other, vague, or have extraterritorial implications. There have been a lot of workarounds to accommodate these changes.
With the new technologies emerging that require personal information for enhancing border management, passenger facilitation, and security tasks, this problem is likely to worsen. If unaddressed, this issue of inconsistency in the data privacy laws has the potential to disrupt the international connectivity and its recovery, hence lowering the aviation demand
The situation is more confusing for the travellers. Consider a passenger who bought a ticket through a global distribution system to fly from the United States to Australia via Europe and Asia. In case of a data breach, where should a complaint be registered?
The aviation industry doesn’t want to be exempted from privacy laws but demands an understanding of its functional and operational needs. A suitable framework for data privacy that is in sync with these needs is all that is required.
There are many airline-to-provider, airline-to-airline, and airline-to-government data transfers and if any part of this extensive data network gets disrupted by the cumbersome legislation, it’s the passenger who will bear the brunt of unnecessary delays, inconvenience or even denial of travel.
As a resolution, IATA, suggested an expert group be convened to formulate best practice guidelines in this critical area. The group could include privacy and data protection specialists, civil aviation regulators, legal experts, and aviation professionals. Governments could then refer to this guidance material when developing, updating, or benchmarking data protection legislation ensuring better data protection regulations without disrupting international civil aviation and increasing airline costs.