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Airline Passenger Privacy Takes Flight

The Department of Homeland Security is at it again. The Transportation Security Administration cancelled its CAPPS II passenger screening program earlier this year due to criticism from privacy advocates and disclosures that contractors secretly got data from major U.S. airlines….
September 23, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security is at it again. The Transportation Security Administration cancelled its CAPPS II passenger screening program earlier this year due to criticism from privacy advocates and disclosures that contractors secretly got data from major U.S. airlines. Now Homeland Security has announced it will order all U.S. airlines to turn over all passenger itineraries from June 2004 to the government for testing of CAPPS II’s successor, Secure Flight. Plenty of press coverage and commentary greeted the announcement yesterday.

Secure Flight program is designed to check airline passenger names against a centralized terrorist watch list–an expanded version of the watch lists that have almost kept passengers such as Sen. Edward Kennedy off flights due to the similarity of their names to those on the lists. The airlines have 30 days to comment on the order (pdf).

TSA claims that privacy is a “key element” in the new approach and released a privacy impact assessment (pdf) that outlines how testing of the program will go forward and how passengers can contest the accuracy of the information being used. Whether such a program will actually increase the security of U.S. airlines–and the extent to which passenger privacy will be safeguarded–are sure to vigorously debated. Keep your eyes peeled.

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