U.S. Orders Airline Passenger Data by Nov. 23: "Terrorist Program" Now Called Secure Flight

Wired News

Friday, November 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government said on Friday it was giving airlines until Nov. 23 to turn over information on millions of people who took domestic flights in June to test a new system for identifying passengers who may pose security risks.

The passenger records will be compared with a security watch list compiled by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to test a new screening program called Secure Flight.

The Transportation Security Administration said it was committed to maintaining "robust privacy protections" during the testing.

The government decided to order carriers to turn over their passenger records after airlines balked at voluntary participation in earlier tests due to passenger complaints and lawsuits.

Some airline-supplied information will be compared with commercial databases used by banks, mortgage and credit agencies to check if identities given to airlines are accurate and to resolve false positive matches with the watch list.

"The data from the airlines will enable us to test the program's operating capacity and fine-tune it," said Rear Adm. David Stone, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the TSA.

"This process will also provide an opportunity to ensure that privacy safeguards are appropriately addressed before moving to implementation," Stone said in a statement.

Because of concerns expressed by some airlines they could be liable for violating European Union privacy laws, the TSA is letting carriers opt to exclude data on flight segments between the United States and EU countries for the test.

The latest effort to screen passengers replaces some elements of a more ambitious $100 million initiative shelved last spring over challenges by privacy advocates that it was too broad and poorly thought out.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited.












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