The Government Wants To Learn More About You


Well, I guess that’s the nice way to put it.

The New York Times had an article today talking about the additional data the US and EU governments want to help find terrorists. This means sifting through more than just your unmentionables. They want credit card data, phone numbers, email addresses, etc for people on flights traveling between the US and the EU.

Every reservation that is made creates a PNR, or passenger name record. This has all the pertinent info about your flight including your name, your contact number, potentially email addresses, credit card payment info, etc. If you booked through a travel agent, you might also see hotel or car reservations in there as well. This is the info that the government wants to use.

Apparently the US had permission to do this in a 2004 agreement with the EU, but it was struck down in court. This means that either a new agreement is signed by the end of September or the US can’t use it for anything.

And that original agreement was only to cross-check people on watch lists and nothing more. Now they want to be able to use that info to match up with a variety of law enforcement agencies.

I know that this is a very dicey proposition, but there are some very good and bad parts to it. I must admit that I have yet to fully decide how I feel about this, but I’m leaning toward supporting it. People readily give this information when they make a reservation, and they probably expect it’s being looked through anyway. The only data that I think is really sensitive is credit card info, but it’s not like there are social security numbers in there. Of course, any time that information passes from one agency to another, it opens up the risk of it being misused.

There’s a lot of good intelligence that can be done with this information. The question is whether or not it’s worth giving up privacy to do that intelligence work. It seems to me that it may very well be worth it, but I need to learn more.

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2 comments on “The Government Wants To Learn More About You

  1. If you truly believe that security screening is a joke and that the real work is done before the terrorists get to the airport, you HAVE TO supoort measures that trade privacy for security.

    For example, the UK has greater rights to your information that the US, directly leading to the arrests in the bombing plot BEFORE they got to the airport.

    You can’t have it all ways. Security and privacy are always at odds – the question is what trade off you are comfortable making.

  2. I agree with you, and my concern is not about using my information for these purposes. My concern is about potential abuse of the information that is being provided.

    When I say I need to learn more, I want to know what groups would be able to access this info. If it truly is between the US government and law enforcement agencies, then it should be fine. I get concerned if they start to involve third party contractors without effective oversight, for example.

    So my big question is who exactly would have access to this data under the agreement?

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