Third Party & Independents Archives

Security Continues to Trump Privacy

This report, by Dept of Homeland Security Investigator Richard Skinner, sheds some light on the incredible job the Government does of protecting private personal information. The report outlines the mishandling of personal information by the TSA, including its distribution to third parties without monitoring the uses of that information. But the invasion of our privacy doesn’t stop there…

In case you're not familiar, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the department in charge of CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening), which watches for terrorists in international travel. Last year, the TSA proposed CAPPS-II, which would expand the capabilities of CAPPS by calculating a 'risk score' for every traveller. This proposal, thankfully, was shot down due to privacy concerns. However, the TSA has proposed 'Secure Flight' as a 'new' alternative. However, concerns have been raised by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California) among others, including the ACLU, that Secure Flight is little more than a renaming of the previously denied CAPPS-II. Despite the concerns, the TSA is preparing to proceed with test evaluations of the program in August with two yet-unnamed airlines.

Later this week, the Government Accountability Office is expected to issue a report outlining the failures of the TSA to meet the prerequisites for implementing Secure Flight. However, it seems that the TSA is all too anxious to roll out its new weapon in the 'War on Terror' to wait meet the requirements of Congress.

Also suspicious, the TSA has commissioned a working group to evaluate the privacy concerns of Secure Flight; and since the TSA is now under the Dept of Homeland Security, they are not hampered by the usual requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires public disclosure of information discussed in these groups.

Security expert Bruce Schneier is a member of this working group which is evaluating Secure Flight, and you can read his comments on the new system in his blog.

Some excerpts:

[T]he security system surrounding Secure Flight is riddled with security holes. There are security problems with false IDs, ID verification, the ability to fly on someone else's ticket, airline procedures, etc.

[T]he urge to use this system for other things will be irresistible. ... Once Secure Flight gets built, all it'll take is a new law and we'll have a nationwide security checkpoint system.

That last point is what should raise the most concern among the populace. We cannot operate under the assumption that those in charge of the government will always be committed to the same degree of personal freedom we have now. By creating a monitoring system of such large scope, we make it all the more tempting for government to abuse our right to privacy.

Posted by Andrew Parker at March 28, 2005 11:36 AM