Sep 04 2023

Transit payment systems and traveler tracking

Last week 404 Media published a report by Joseph Cox on how the New York Metropolitan Transit Agency’s website can be used as a remote stalking tool: anyone who knows a credit card number that was used to purchase or add value to an OMNY transit farecard could view a historical log of the last seven days of trips taken using the card, including the dates, times, and locations where the card was read at subway entrances or boarding buses.

Less than 24 hours after this report was published, this “feature” was removed from the MTA website.

But that doesn’t solve the problem.

The main problem with the MTA payment system — and similar systems in other cities — isn’t that anyone could access your trip history by typing in your credit card number (which every waiter you ever bought a meal from with that credit card has access to,  and every domestic violence abuser in your household also knows).

The real problem is that the MTA transit system is building a permanent database of all your trips, period. The MTA is still logging transit passengers’ movements, and those logs are still available to the MTA itself, police, anyone the MTA chooses to share them with, or anyone who hacks into the TSA’s records.

If the MTA didn’t collect this data in the first place, there would be no way for anyone to abuse it.

Read More

Dec 04 2013

Dr. Ibrahim’s legal brief’s theories about what DHS did wrong

Rahinah Ibrahim’s trial brief goes over the basic legal theories of the case, and details what Dr. Ibrahim is asking the court to do.  This is not legal advice; you can read what we think about some of its high points, or just follow the link and read it yourself.  This focuses more on the factual allegations than the details of the legal rules that Dr. Ibrahim claims DHS has violated.

The first thing you’ll notice about this 53-page document is that looks like something that went through government censorship, like a FOIA result full of blacked-out passages.  That is because it did go through government censorship.  Dr. Ibrahim’s lawyers have no security clearances, but at the insistence of the judge, they have been checked-out by the government and authorized to see documents that are DHS “Sensitive Security Information”, a sui-generis class of stuff-you-can’t-see that doesn’t even have most of the protections for the public that classified information has.  Carefully tweaked language in Congressional bills that used to exempt federal aviation research from public view have turned into a Kafkaesque power by the head of DHS to say anything is “SSI” for just about any vague reason.  Dr. Ibrahim’s lawyers can see things that they cannot reveal to Ms. Ibrahim or to the public.  They can write things in their legal brief that neither the public nor Dr.. Ibrahim are permitted to know (that’s the stuff that is blacked out).  Dr. Ibrahim is still not permitted to know if she is or ever was on the No-Fly list!!!

Pages 10 through about 19 detail the facts about what happened to Dr. Ibrahim and her family over the last decade.  Much of this will have to be proven in court with evidence, but it’s mostly uncontested.

Then come the legal arguments.  These may be tough slogging on first read, but here’s what seem to be  the meat of the allegations about what Dr. Ibrahim thinks DHS is doing wrong. Read More

Dec 03 2013

Ibrahim case tweets: @ehasbrouck, and PACER cache link

Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project is attending the “no-fly” trial in Ibrahim v. DHS, which is going on this week and may continue into next week. Cellphone and Internet access in the courthouse is unreliable, but he’ll be tweeting updates when possible in addition to posting articles in this blog.

You can use the federal courts’ PACER system to view public filings in the case, for a fee.  Or, for those of us mortals who aren’t registered with the federal courts to pay through the nose for access to public domain judicial records, you can use the Internet Archive’s RECAP archive of the case docket, which includes links to some of the case documents which friendly PACER users have donated to public access.

Jun 23 2009

“Clear” registered traveler company fails after wasting $116M

260,000 members down the tubes. No refunds.

Congratulations, suckers! Not only did you sign up for and pay money to a totalitarian program, but as usual, the police state was run by incompetents. Your little attempt to suck up to the TSA gestapo now won’t be doing you any good.

Their competitor “Flo Corp” is working hard to “analyze the implications of this announcement”. We can give them some help. A tiny minority of Americans signed up for the National Security State you offered them. You lost the election, the people voted with their wallets and their feet. Your fly-by-night stock is hovering right near 1cent per share. So get a clue and get out of the business while you still can pay your debts. What the public deserves is reform of the whole TSA system, so it provides real rights and real service and real accountability to EVERY traveler — not just to rich guys happy to have their iris and fingerprints on file. TSA’s culture of impunity needs to end, then we’ll all get along a lot better.

Oh, and to investors in Clear? It’s charming how you hoped to profit from funding the totalitarian tracking of the movements of all the citizens. (You couldn’t hope to make money at it unless pretty much every traveler signed up for it.) We’re so glad that every dollar you gave Clear is now a dollar that you can’t waste on your next socially destructive idea.

Aug 14 2008

TSA threatens airlines who tell people they’re on watchlists

Let’s see. You’re hassled mercilessly by airline employees, who won’t let you check luggage, won’t let you print a boarding pass, won’t let you check in, and bring cops and airport security people to confront you when you appear to resolve the situation. But under a new plan by TSA, the airline risks a $25,000 fine if they tell you WHY they are hassling you.

USA Today reports that TSA’s upset when airlines explain the hassle by telling people they’re on a TSA watch list. TSA will not tell people when they are on such a list. TSA won’t tell people when they ARE NOT on such a list. They want the airlines to do the same — keep mum, but keep harassing the public.

TSA and the DoJ counterterrorism center twice barred a Malaysian woman from flying, ordered her arrested, kept her in custody for hours, and eventually allowed her to fly out of the US only long enough for them to permanently cancel her US visa without notice, so she could not return to Stanford to finish her PhD. The victim, Rahinah Ibrahim, sued them. Even in court, TSA refuses to confirm or deny whether she was on the watch list. Idiots!

TSA’s lists are secret, just as in all good government institutions. TSA’s regulations are secret, just as in all good government institutions. Let’s hope TSA doesn’t propose new regulations next month with $25,000 fines against web sites or the press if they tell people that secret watch lists exist and that you’re being hassled at the airport because TSA suspects you of being a terrorist without a shred of evidence.

(Of course, airlines have been known to screw up, and they love to blame government regulations when it’s their own damn fault. But despite the airlines’ eagerness to check IDs so that their customers can’t resell unused tickets, it was the government that imposed the current system of harassment, and put 400,000 to 1,000,000 alleged communists — oops, wrong bogeyman, it’s not the 50’s any more — I meant “terrorists” — on these secret blacklists.)

Aug 14 2008

TSA stops building database of ID-less travelers

USA Today reports that Lack of ID put fliers on TSA list.  16,500 people were in this database since TSA changed the secret rules for travelers in June.  After being called by USA Today to comment for the story, TSA head Kip Hawley changed the rule “effective today” and pledged to remove the 16,500 names from its database of “suspicious people”.

We applaud Mr. Hawley for ceasing to keep permanent records on the id-less 1% of the population.  It remains for him to stop trying to bar citizens from domestic travel based on blacklists, and to stop demanding that people submit to illegitimate government demands to “identify themselves” before moving from place to place in their own country.

Jun 29 2007

Former Congressman Bob Barr opposes Real ID

Bob Barr is a former conservative hate-monger who somehow found his moral compass. He is now preaching tolerance of gays in the military, ending the drug war, repealing Real National ID, and most recently taking the Real National ID requirement out of the immigration bill. He is the first politician who straightforwardly says, “no America citizen should have to prove to a government entity who they are in order to obtain or retain employment.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The thread that runs through all these issues is honoring the rights of individuals to make their own choices without being tracked or coerced by the nanny state. Welcome to your sanity, Bob; we hope you keep it a long time.