Mobility, risk, security, freedom and technology are prominent key words in most of the debates on the current practices of data sharing in the European Union (EU) – United States (US) context. The main aim of our contribution is to critically analyze the re-articulation of two main modes of control of human mobility. Indeed, a country-based approach, in which the country of origin is a core variable in establishing the relevant “protocols” of mobility checks, appears challenged, or at least paralleled by the lures of an individuals-based approach, where the identification and attribution of specific (individuals’) features triggers and determines the kind of controls to undergo. While this possible shift has not passed unperceived among scholars, less attention has been devoted to the analysis of concrete cases, and to the possible hybrid forms of human mobility controls.
Part One of the contribution introduces the main transatlantic agreements on data sharing as well as unilateral systems of data collection developed on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, we focus on some of the most relevant cases – the EU/US Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement, the US Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA) program, and the EU Visa Information System (VIS) – and policy developments – Obama’s policy, the High Level Contact Group, the Stockholm Programme.
Part Two of the contribution sketches a critical overview on the traditional and technological ways used to frame and control “mobilities”. It analyses how data processing, and technology in general, is perceived as a “pivotal solution” to shift towards a more individualized, and risk-based, approach to security and mobility. In this part we further stress the specific dynamics and risks of the cumulative use of different control practices. While none of these practices is, per se, omni-comprehensive, this composite set of agreements, coupled with “unilateral” measures capturing individuals’ data concerning individuals traveling across the Atlantic, deserves further critical attention. To do so, Part Two introduces a sketch of at least two modes of conceptualizing travelers, one more linked to the “classical” notion of migrant and the other with the concept of mobility and risk.