Wednesday, 28 July 2004

"Identity is Front and Center at the Airport"

Bruce Schneier and I are quoted extensively in Michael Pastore’s lead story today at, focusing on the key concept that, “Security in American airports is essentially an identity issue.” Excerpts:

Leading the fight against CAPPS II were the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Edward Hasbrouck, a travel guru and author of the Practical Nomand travel books….

This month, despite it never being deployed or field-tested, the TSA declared CAPPS II dead — sort of. While the program as it was originally conceived is no more and its name is destined for history, certain aspects of CAPPS II may rise again in a future program, maybe even the Registered Traveler Program.

“A lot of this stuff never goes away,” says Schneier, who has written a number of books on security, including Beyond Fear and Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World . “It just changes its name.”

Hasbrouck’s opposition to CAPPS II began out of consumer advocacy. Most consumers aren’t aware of the amount of data in travel records; not only where and when people travel, but where they stay, who they contact, and intimate details like the number of beds they request and information on medical conditions. That is changing now thanks to the uproar around CAPPS II. “What we’ve seen over the last 18 months is that travel data has moved into the inner circle of personal data that must be kept private, along with medical and financial data,” Hasbrouck says.

That industry collects the data was not a shock to Hasbrouck and others, but it was the compulsory giving of that data to the government that seemed to threaten the Constitution. Hasbrouck also says that in following the development of CAPPS II, he noted a transformation in late 2002 and early 2003 when the program moved from the Department of Transportation to the TSA, where it became a “black” (secret) project. It went from a well-intentioned security program, allbeit one conceived in post-Sept. 11 panic Hasbrouck says, to something else entirely.

“Collecting lifetime dossiers on people’s travel is not a security program,” he says. “It’s a surveillance program.”

Critics of the two identity-based programs agree they were never going to provide effective security. “A lot of it is security theater,” says Schneier….

In its report, the Sept. 11 Commission mentioned the amount of money being spent on security at the airport, and focused many of its recommendations on improvement to travel security — specifically the security of travel documents — that could implemented before a suspect arrives at the airport. “Over 90 percent of the nation’s $5.3 billion annual investment in the TSA goes to aviation — to fight the last war,” the panel said in its report.

Hasbrouck agrees that the concern is disproportionate to the actual risk, and wonders why the government doesn’t take such steps to protect Americans from drunk drivers, a group that kills more people in the United States than terrorists and who are more easily identified because many have a proven history of driving drunk….

“I don’t think you can make a rational case for spending billions of dollars to make the safest mode of transportation safer,” he says.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 28 July 2004, 18:16 ( 6:16 PM)
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"Don't believe anything just because you read it on the Internet. Anyone can say anything on the Internet, and they do. The Internet is the most effective medium in history for the rapid global propagation of rumor, myth, and false information." (From The Practical Nomad Guide to the Online Travel Marketplace, 2001)
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