Jan 15 2009

Recent developments in the USA in travel data

(Comments of the Identity Project at a workshop on “What’s on the agenda in the USA and Canada?” at the annual conference on Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection, Brussels, 16-17 January 2009)

Two major issues have emerged in the last year in relation to personal data about travel: (1) The overall goal of the government of the USA in its various policy initiatives on “travel security” has become increasingly clear. The USA is seeking to establish a global norm that:

  1. Government-issued identity credentials should be required for all forms of travel, domestic and international.
  2. All travel transactions should be recorded in a lifetime “travel history”.
  3. Pre-departure government permission should be required for all travel (based on the identity credential and the associated historical dossier), particularly for air travel or international travel.

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Jan 06 2009

“We Will Not Be Silent” on JetBlue Airlines

Showing that they haven’t lost their ability to waste their stockholders’ and the taxpayers money by violating travelers’ rights, JetBlue Airlines and two TSA officials have paid $240,000 to a JetBlue passenger who they forced to cover up the message on his t-shirt as a condition of allowing him to fly home from New York to California.

Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-American who works for the Nobel Peace prize-winning American Friends Service Committee, was prevented by both JetBlue and the TSA from boarding the plane until he covered up his shirt, which said “We will not be silent” in both English and Arabic.

JetBlue previously had to apologize to its customers for turning over its entire historical PNR database of records about everyone who had ever taken a JetBlue flight to a military contractor working on a profiling scheme linked to the Total Information Awareness program, prompting lawsuits by several groups of passengers.

Perhaps now that the TSA has settled with Mr. Jarrar, we can once again safely wear the “Suspected Terrorist” buttons that got John Gilmore and his traveling companion kicked off a British Airways flight in San Francisco.

Jan 05 2009

“The Department of Homeland Security in Action”

Just in time for the launch tomorrow night (Tuesday, Jan. 6th) of the the new DHS “reality” television show, Michael Yon has a timely post about an aspect of DHS reality that the “embedded” television production crews probably won’t show us: Border Bullies: The Department of Homeland Security in Action. Read the whole story. The devil is in the details of how Michael’s friend was treated on arrivial in the USA (en route to spend money as a tourist at Disneyworld), but here are a few snippets:

While the U.S. Immigration officer named Knapp rifled through all her belongings, Aew sat quietly. She was afraid of this man, who eventually pushed a keyboard to Aew and coerced her into giving up the password to her e-mail address. Officer Knapp read through Aew’s e-mails that were addressed to me, and mine to her. Aew would tell me later that she sat quietly, but “Inside I was crying.” She had been so excited to finally visit America. America, the only country ever to coerce her at the border. This is against everything I know about winning and losing the subtle wars. This is against everything I love about the United States. We are not supposed to behave like this. Aew would tell me later that she thought she would be arrested if she did not give the password….

Knowing that Homeland Security officers are creating animosity and anxiety at our borders does not make me feel safer. How many truly bad guys slip by while U.S. officers stand in small rooms and pick on little women?…

I had intended to show Aew a bit of my country. But it’s taking a little while for her to get over her discomfort at being in America. She was treated better in China. So was I.