Almost daily we are asked to give up some small piece of our privacy for the sake of "safety," in one sense or another. The issue comes up today regarding airline passengers and automobiles.
- Criticism of an electronic airline passenger-screening network took on a new edge yesterday as the Senate Commerce Committee endorsed a plan to require the Transportation Security Administration to disclose how the system will work, including its impact on personal privacy.
Government officials consider the surveillance system, known as CAPPS II, to be a crucial part of plans to secure the aviation system from terrorist threats. But a growing number of critics believe the system will be overly intrusive and used by other law enforcement agencies.
"This is really the beginning of a debate of how our country can fight [terrorism] ferociously, without gutting civil liberties," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said after the committee accepted his amendment yesterday. It also would require the TSA to report how it will mitigate errors and enable appeals from passengers who believe they were incorrectly identified as potential threats.
The CAPPS II system will rely heavily on commercial data warehouses containing names, telephone numbers, former addresses, financial details and other information about nearly every adult American, according to documents and officials.
Under current plans, it will send a passenger's identifying information to a commercial information service and have the service construct a risk score, based on computer models provided by the TSA. Those scores will help determine whether a passenger can board a flight. Officials have said they're most interested in knowing whether someone is "rooted in the community." [Washington Post]
Ironically, America is known for being the most mobile of modern societies: founded by the mobile and with an entire ethos built around making it easy to "pick up and start over" - even our relatively liberal bankruptcy laws reflect this.