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Feds won't use commercial databases for Secure Flight screening program

Feds won't use commercial databases for Secure Flight screening program
Feds won't use commercial databases for Secure Flight screening program



[From EPIC's newsletter... --Declan]


=======================================================================[1] Transportation Agency Drops Commercial Data From Prescreening Plan
=======================================================================

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has abandoned plans to
use commercial data to check the identities of airline passengers in the
government's proposed passenger prescreening system, Secure Flight. TSA
announced the decision shortly before a government-appointed working
group is expected to issue a critical report on the program's privacy
implications.


As envisioned, Secure Flight would compare Passenger Name Records
against information compiled by the Terrorist Screening Center, which
includes expanded "selectee" and "no fly" lists. Further, the program
would seek to identify suspicious travel behavior in passengers'
itineraries.


As originally planned, TSA would have also used commercial databases to
verify the accuracy of information provided by travelers. The contractor
conducting the test was EagleForce Associates, Inc., which obtained
commercial data from data aggregators Acxiom, InsightAmerica and Qwest.
According to documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information
Act last year, Acxiom pushed to water down key federal privacy laws
immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to
the documents, Acxiom sought broader access to "credit headers" and
drivers information in order to develop a system for "identity and
information verification that can be used by organizations such as
airlines, airports, cruise ships, and large buildings and other
applications to better determine whether a person is actually who they
say they are."


The agency began testing the system earlier this year. In June, however,
TSA admitted that it had collected and maintained detailed commercial
data about thousands of travelers in violation of a notice published
last fall stating it wouldn't do so. The disclosure came just days after
the Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office announced that it was
investigating whether TSA violated a federal privacy law during the
program's testing.


In related news, the Justice Department Inspector General recently
concluded that TSA's missteps have made it difficult for the government
office responsible for the terrorist watch list to prepare for the
launch of Secure Flight. The Terrorist Screening Center maintains the
government's consolidated watch list, which is planned to be a vital
part of the prescreening program. According to the Inspector General's
report, Terrorist Screening Center officials "believe that their ability
to prepare for the implementation of Secure Flight has been hampered by
the TSA's failure to make, communicate, and comply with key program and
policy decisions in a timely manner." The Inspector General cited
several issues as potentially problematic, including costs, redress, and
data accuracy.


Transportation Security Administration's Page on Secure Flight:

http://www.tsa.gov/public/display?theme=5&content=09000519800cf3a7 

EPIC documents on Acxiom's lobbying and proposed amendments (pdf):

http://www.epic.org/privacy/drivers/acxiomlobby.pdf 

EPIC's Secure Flight Page:

http://www.epic.org/privacy/airtravel/secureflight.html 

Justice Department Inspector General's Report (pdf):

http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0534/final.pdf 
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