Friday, November 26, 2004

All Your (Airline) Data Are Belong To U.S.

Been to the United States this summer? Well, then all your data may now be in the hands of the (only slightly Orwellian sounding) Transport Security Administration, as this article in Wired News reveals:
“U.S. airlines turned over a month's worth of passenger data Tuesday to Homeland Security officials, who want to test a massive, centralized passenger-screening system.
The Transportation Security Administration ordered America's 72 airlines to turn over their June 2004 domestic passenger flight records by Tuesday afternoon. The airlines had initially questioned the order because of privacy concerns, but they all complied.
The agency wants the records -- which can include credit card numbers, phone numbers and health information -- to test a system called Secure Flight.”
This is hoped to save you from terrorism in the future. In the meantime, a couple of people may be tempted to use this cache of data for browsing purposes: linking names with credit card numbers, linking phone numbers with addresses, checking where someone really went that June morning... Ever heard of “mission creep”? Once the data are there, one can think of so many useful things to do with them.

You think I'm being paranoid? Did you know that between 1989 and 1998, more than 1500 employees of the US Internal Revenue Service had been investigated or disciplined for using government computers to browse through tax returns of friends, relatives, neighbors, enemies, and celebrities?

[Source: “The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?” (David Brin), p. 55]

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