Friday, 13 February 2004

"CAPPS II Faces Massive Technical Challenges"

Industry: CAPPS II Faces Massive Technical Challenges
(Business Travel News online, 13 February 2004)

On top of myriad concerns already being debated (BTNonline, Feb. 12), sources said technical challenges to garnering additional passenger data for the planned computer assisted passenger prescreening system not only have gone unstudied, but may be so immense that implementation of CAPPS II before this summer is impossible….

American Civil Liberties Union technology and liberty program director Barry Steinhardt yesterday cited Edward Hasbrouck, a travel agent and traveler advocate, as the source of one estimate that reprogramming systems could cost up to $1 billion….

Hasbrouck came up with the $1 billion estimate by extrapolating from a $164 million estimate last year by the International Air Transport Association — which it called “extremely conservative” — on the cost of collecting passenger data for international flights at checkin with associated modifications to the airlines’ host reservations systems, as part of a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service proposal that Hasbrouck called “parallel to but more limited” than CAPPS II. It related to the Advance Passenger Information System co-developed by INS and the U.S. Customs Service.

“But that IATA estimate does not address what CAPPS II would, which includes modifications at every intermediary layer of the distribution system,” Hasbrouck said. “All the application programming interfaces have to be modified, starting with the airline interline messaging protocols, then the airlines’ host systems, the GDSs, then the third-party software with their user interfaces, such as corporate booking tools.”

Hasbrouck said that even these challenges leave out the facts that many business travelers simply walk up to buy a ticket and do not make reservations; group reservations often are made without using names; travelers can have multiple “home addresses” or, in the case of continuously flying consultants, no address at all; “full names” often exceed the space granted them in the PNRs or contain complicating characters; and more.

“Altogether, collecting and delivering the proposed data in a standardized format cannot take place in less than several years,” Hasbrouck claimed….

As for the GDS companies, Hasbrouck said, they “are aware that their role and the abilities they would have, if unrestricted, would not withstand public scrutiny, so their main goal right now is to stay out of the spotlight.”

One GDS company spokesperson agreed, calling “loaded” a question about the technical challenges to modifying the PNR data to serve CAPPS II. Another public relations representative called the same question anything but innocuous, reverting to a stock statement that, “We haven’t been asked to disclose any customer data.” Two of the four GDS firms did not return messages left yesterday about the issue.

Cendant Travel Distribution Division chairman and CEO Sam Katz last November said he wished he could answer a question from Hasbrouck about CAPPS II, but could not because it [CAPPS II] was no more than “an idea.”

DHS did not immediately respond today to a request for additional information…

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 13 February 2004, 12:03 (12:03 PM)
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