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Friday, September 23, 2005

TSA for Tots and Scaling Back Secure Flight

Tsatoy1Now your kid (or you) can re-enact the excitement of airline screening!  Yes, the airline screening playset pictured here is real!  But unfortunately, the toy is a far cry from reality, since it doesn’t appear that the passenger comes with removable shoes.  And sadly, it doesn’t appear that the set comes with a No Fly list.  What kind of silly toy would dare to exclude the Secure Flight system? 

Speaking of Secure Flight, there has been a major development in this TSA program to screen airline passengers.  From the Wall St. Journal:

The TSA has been considering using commercial data for Secure Flight, but came under intense criticism from privacy advocates, the Government Accountability Office and others. In response, the agency has decided to launch the program without using commercial data, said TSA chief Kip Hawley. "There's no question it would be helpful, but it brings with it a lot of privacy concerns," Mr. Hawley said. . . .

Collecting full names and birth dates will reduce false matches by 60%, Justin Oberman, who runs the program, told Congress this summer. But to further increase accuracy, the TSA considered the commercial data, which could include information culled from marriage and birth certificates, credit-card records, court filings, newspaper clippings and other sources.

The TSA secretly tested this procedure without informing the public -- hiring a contractor that collected 100 million records -- which brought sharp rebukes from the GAO and privacy advocates. The agency apologized and reissued its privacy statement.

But it remains unclear what commercial data would be used for. Mr. Oberman suggested to a congressional committee that the data could be used to find people who aren't on the watch list -- members of "sleeper cells" that the FBI doesn't know about -- as well as to better match travelers to known names. "If we just rise and fall on the watch list, it's not adequate," he said in July.

From the beginning, the Secure Flight program has been something of a disaster.  Originally named CAPPS II, it was scrapped due to unclear goals and privacy problems.  TSA gave it a makeover, renamed it with the happier name of "Secure Flight," and made stronger assurances that privacy would be protected.  But once again, the TSA got into trouble by violating the Privacy Act in breaking its promise not to store data about consumers from commercial entities. 

Now Secure Flight, which was supposed to be the scaled back version of CAPPS II, is being scaled back.

But many questions still remain:  What gets a person on the No Fly list?  What can people do to get off the list?  How long will this take?  What mechanisms (if any) will exist to ensure that there is public accountability for the system? 

Hat tip: Secondary Screening

Posted by Daniel Solove on September 23, 2005 at 03:08 AM in Daniel Solove, Information and Technology | Permalink

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Comments

I don't see the requisite long lines with that set either.

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Sep 23, 2005 8:58:59 AM

It's also missing the cheery signs, like "No joking: we take all jokes seriously." and "No taking photographs of the security operation" and "Chew your cud quietly."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 23, 2005 9:34:53 AM

As a former airline employee, my guess is that this woman is actually an airline inflight manager. I've seen that steely, vapid glint before...Thank you so much for the laugh.

Posted by: Stuart | Oct 12, 2005 6:57:35 PM

hahah nice I got a few friends who work in the airline industry and one is a screener hahahah

Posted by: KaT | Oct 25, 2005 2:33:05 PM

what i want to know is where can i order this toy? my brother is a TSA screener and i badly want to get him one.

Posted by: FollenAngel | Oct 27, 2005 3:41:13 PM

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