By: Matt McBride
The Transportation Security Administration is yet again on the frontiers of privacy violations. TSA has announced a new program to search a myriad of government and private databases for information about airplane passers before the passengers even arrive at the airport. TSA will be looking for information such as car registrations and property records. In doing so, the agency has taken an already out-of-control screening process and injected it with steroids.
While this is just another example of government overreach and privacy violation, it seems all too familiar. The similarities between the expanded screening process and the pre-crime predictions of Minority Report are just too comical to ignore. An article published by The New York Times provides some highlights:
- It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.
- The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
- Much of this personal data is widely shared within the Department of Homeland Security and with other government agencies. Privacy notices for these databases note that the information may be shared with federal, state and local authorities; foreign governments; law enforcement and intelligence agencies — and in some cases, private companies for purposes unrelated to security or travel.
- For instance, an update about the TSA’s Transportation Security Enforcement Record System, which contains information about travelers accused of “violations or potential violations” of security regulations, warns that the records may be shared with “a debt collection agency for the purpose of debt collection.”
The article does not mention if TSA plans to check your health records with the Obamacare database to see if, for example, you should be signaled out for special treatment because you told your doctor you own guns.
Maybe Tom Cruise was right? Perhaps “the future can be seen,” as it was in the film. Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, echoed this sentiment, saying “I think the best way to look at it is a pre-crime assessment every time you fly.” In their defense, the TSA contends that the new screening process is needed to make the overall procedure more targeted. This is also reminiscent of the 2002 film, when Cruise’s character said “There’s nothing wrong with this system. It’s perfect.”
This most recent intrusion is particularly upsetting because this level of scrutiny only previously applied to individuals entering the United States. Every day, law-abiding American citizens are now subject to the same procedures as non-citizens at airports. Campaign for Liberty will always stand with those who value privacy rights. We invite you to sign our petition because the TSA simply must be stopped.
Tags: privacy, TSA