Friday, 13 February 2004

"Government Data Rules Eliminate Hope of Privacy for US Air Travelers"

Government Data Rules Eliminate Hope of Privacy for US Air Travelers
(Gene J. Koprowski, TechNewsWorld, 13 February 2004)

Most airlines outsource their domestic reservation databases, known as Passenger Name Records (PNRs) to organizations with clever names like Sabre, Amadeus and Worldspan.

“With the cost of storage dropping, retention times have been increasing, but they’ve always been at least three to five years,” said Edward Hasbrouck, the travel guru at , an Internet travel agency. “PNRs are kept in live storage until the completion of travel, after which they are moved to permanent archival storage.”

Since 9-11, the government has been closely eying that domestic travel data, through the jurisdiction of the U.S. Patriot Act, and other measures. As a result, travelers in the United States “shouldn’t have confidence in the privacy of their reservations” said Hasbrouck.

Experts believe that, unless the U.S. Congress passes an act to ensure privacy of travelers, unlikely, due to national security concerns, the collection of data on travelers will intensify, giving government users and some commercial entities with access the ability to track your travels — and expected comings and goings too….

“There’s an ‘if you build it they will come’ aspect to data collection and maintenance in such systems,” said Hasbrouck.

“Once the data exists, even if technology restricts access to authorized users, technology can’t determine who should be authorized. Decisions about authorization for access are policy choices, and can change long after the data is collected. Unless the records are destroyed, data can be used for purposes that weren’t anticipated or authorized when it was collected.”

Hasbrouck observes that as long as the data is kept, it can be requested by the DHS or TSA, regardless of whether the government maintains its own “mirror” of these data archives.

“The distinction between data retained by the government and by the private sector is largely meaningless in light of the Patriot Act provisions for the government to demand privately-held data, in secrecy, without the need of a court order,” said Hasbrouck.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 13 February 2004, 15:30 ( 3:30 PM)
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