U.S. Tests New Flyer Screening Program

By Swartz, Nikki | Information Management, November-December 2004 | Go to article overview

U.S. Tests New Flyer Screening Program


Swartz, Nikki, Information Management


The 9/11 Commission has recommended expanding the no-fly list airlines now check to keep suspected terrorists off planes, which would require consolidating as many as 12 secret lists maintained by different intelligence agencies. It also urged the U.S. government to take over pre-screening responsibilities from the airlines because many names of potential terrorists, now kept in numerous government databases, have not been shared with airlines because some agencies deem the information too sensitive.

Despite these large hurdles, the U.S. government has announced a replacement for its scrapped airline passenger screening program CAPPS II--a new computer-assisted passenger screening program called Secure Flight. The government said it would order airlines to turn over millions of passenger records so it can begin testing the program that will hunt for suspected terrorists trying to board commercial aircraft.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will collect by mid-November all domestic passenger records for June 2004 from the nation's 77 airlines, use that data to test the system for 30 days, and then develop a more specific plan about how the program should move ahead. According to The Washington Post, the TSA plans to launch Secure Flight by spring 2005, although officials said there are few details of how it will actually work.

The data turned over to the government will vary by airline. In most cases, it will include each passenger's name, address, telephone number, and flight number. It may also include the names of traveling companions, meal preferences, whether the reservation was changed at any point, the method of payment, and passenger behavior while onboard.

The TSA said the goal is to reduce the number of passengers selected for more intensive screening. Under the current system, airlines check passengers' names against government lists of suspicious people. The new order would require airlines to provide the same kind of passenger information that several, including JetBlue and Northwest, voluntarily turned over to the government after 9/11.

In September, the Department of Transportation ruled that Northwest Airlines did not violate its own privacy policy and did not mislead customers when it shared millions of passenger records with the government as part of a secret airline security project. The Transportation Department said it dismissed the complaint against Northwest because the language of the airline's privacy policy stated only that it would not sell the information and did not address sharing information with the government. …

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