Blogs > Liberty and Power > Airports and privacy round-up

Mar 28, 2004 10:41 am

Airports and privacy round-up

The Washington Times states that major US airports are considering"the option of using private companies beginning Nov. 19 if they can demonstrate security would not diminish." The first question that occurs to me: would these private citizens have the same right to fine me for my attitude as the government security officers currently do? Again from the Washington Times,"A fine of up to $1,500 can be levied (after the fact, of course) against an air traveler for something called nonphysical interference with screening. What is that? Looking at the screener the wrong way? Failing to jump high enough when told to jump? Or maybe, just maybe, 'nonphysical interference with screening' consists of a bad 'attitude'; perhaps failing to greet a screener with appropriate deference or subservience as she arbitrarily forces you to disrobe publicly or submit to an additional, 'random' inspection? No kidding. The TSA is asserting the right and the power to fine you, a law-abiding American citizen or lawful visitor to this great land, simply because its employees don't like your attitude.' One of eight 'aggravating factors' listed in the new Guidelines is the 'attitude of violator'." How does my neighbor properly acquire this power over me?

Airports are also poised to institute the much-discussed trusted-traveler card in order to speed up waiting in clogged security-check lines. According to Wired,"While civil liberties groups have questioned the plan's merits, travel industry groups have welcomed it." Again, business joins hands with government to violate privacy rights. One of the reasons the travel industry welcomes the card is because it accomplishes much the same goal as CAPPS without the controversy caused by the legislation. If the card is successful with business travellers, I suspect it will become a required piece of identification for anyone wishing to board a plane in the US within five years. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is trying to make end-runs around the"privacy problem." For example, Wired reports that the TSA has appointed"a vocal critic of its privacy practices to write its privacy policies, perhaps in a move to placate congressional critics and privacy advocates. Lisa Dean, who has worked as the Washington policy liaison for the Electronic Frontier Foundation since June 2003, is scheduled to start as the chief privacy officer of the TSA ..." I think we can expect a great level of sophistication in how plans to violate civil liberties are worded and in the TSA's PR outreach to privacy watchdog groups.

For more commentary, please see McBlog.

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