ACLU: Airline Procedures Would Further Violate Privacy

Aug. 12, 2005
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has called for airline passengers to provide more personal information to the government, causing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to denounce the move, saying it infringes on privacy.

Chertoff commented that the average American gives out more information to obtain store discount cards and video rental cards than the information required by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Chertoff told reporters for USA Today, "I actually make that case that giving up a little bit more information protects privacy."

Timothy D. Sparapani, an ACLU legislative counsel, disagrees with that assessment, noting, "Secretary Chertoff is saying that Americans must give up more of their most private information to protect their privacy. However, privacy in his view is limited to avoiding pat down searches and the like - and omits the protection of our most private information. His comparison of CVS to airline security is way off the mark - retail stores cannot stop Americans from traveling, or falsely identify them as suspected terrorists. And, recent scandals show that our most private information stored in central databases is subject to security breaches and theft by hackers."

Sparapani claims that name-based security systems like Secure Flight do not work. Even with the additional personal information TSA has said it wants to collect, the agency admits the Secure Flight program would still lead to over 5.1 million passengers wrongly flagged per year as security risks.

"Worse still," Sparapani added, "the system is based on the premise that terrorists will be on government watchlists. But watchlists can be circumvented if terrorists obtain 'clean' identities or are not listed."

According to the ACLU it remains unclear that the collection of massive amounts of personal information will make Secure Flight effective.

"Instead of pushing for an expansion of Secure Flight - which has yet to receive a passing grade - the government should be focusing its efforts on proven security measures, like following leads and effectively screening passengers and cargo," suggested Sparapani.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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