image: Minority Report, the movie, Twentieth Century Fox, DreamWorks

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases which all apparently roll up into one database called the Automated Targeting System, which is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

…and you’re probably (most certainly) in their database.

Your personal information that is now checked apparently includes an extensive range of records no less than things like car registrations, employment information, tax records, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, law enforcement or intelligence information, passport data, gender and date of birth comparisons with terrorist watch lists, frequent-flier program details, travel reservations, debt collection agencies, passenger name records, fingerprints, criminal-background checks… just to name a few of what we’ve heard about.

“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search…”

Critics argue that the problem with what the agency calls an “intelligence-driven, risk-based analysis” of passenger data is that secret computer rules, not humans, make these determinations. Civil liberties groups have questioned whether the agency has the legal authority to make these assessments, which the T.S.A. has claimed it has. Privacy advocates have also disputed whether computer algorithms can accurately predict terrorist intent.

Much of the collected personal data is widely shared within the Department of Homeland Security and with other government agencies. Privacy notices for these databases note that the information may be shared with federal, state and local authorities; foreign governments; law enforcement and intelligence agencies — and in some cases, private companies for purposes unrelated to security or travel.

“The average person doesn’t understand how much intelligence-driven matching is going on and how this could be accessed for other purposes,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center lawyer, Khaliah Barnes in a report from nytimes.com, “Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly”. “There’s no meaningful oversight, transparency or accountability.”

The effort comes as the agency is trying to increase participation in its trusted traveler program, called PreCheck, that allows frequent fliers to pass through security more quickly.

It’s all for your own safety, and expedited airport screening of course…

The government and its agencies never shrink, they just keep getting bigger, and is inversely proportional to your privacy.

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