Feeds

Feds implement mass passenger data trawl

Introducing the 'Automated Targeting System'

Application security programs and practises

Whenever the US government runs afoul of public opinion with some data-mining scheme threatening to invade the privacy of millions, it changes the name and then goes ahead as planned. We had the "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) federal scheme to mine official and commercial databases, which morphed into the MATRIX, an interconnected state scheme to mine official and commercial databases, to which the federal government has access.

We had the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System (CAPPS-2), a scheme to mine official and commercial databases and produce a threat assessment of each passenger. After the public indicated its displeasure, its name was changed to the warmer and fuzzier "Secure Flight", but Congress still shut it down due to privacy and accuracy concerns.

Now it's back, with a new name and acronym, the Automated Targeting System (ATS). Nothing warm or fuzzy about that; it sounds like part of some hi-tech weapons system. But naturally, it's just CAPPS/Secure Flight by another name.

The new system will trawl for data, look for patterns, and calculate a score for each passenger, determining whether they will pass through security with relative ease, or whether the latex gloves will have to come out. DHS calls it a "decision support tool". It will, we're told, "improve the collection, use, analysis, and dissemination of information that is gathered for the primary purpose of targeting, identifying, and preventing potential terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States."

"ATS standardises names, addresses, conveyance names, and similar data so these data elements can be more easily associated with other business data and personal information to form a more complete picture of a traveller, import, or export in context with previous behaviour of the parties involved".

So it's quite clear that commercial profiles will be in the mix: whether one rents or owns a house, credit activity, travel history, and the like. It was this sort of personal data that gave CAPPS-2 such a bad name among the public, and prompted Congress to suspend it. People are less concerned about a quick check against lists of known terrorists and wanted criminals. They're a lot more concerned about being "evaluated" on the basis of where they live, what they buy, where they travel, and how up-to-date their credit payments are by some remote government clerk with a computer.

The private data, we're told, will come from the airlines. At a minimum, this would include name, address, credit card number, origin and destination, passport number for international travellers, travel history, travel companions, and seat assignment (where do terrorists prefer to sit, anyway?). It could involve dates of birth, account details of frequent fliers, hotel accommodations of those booking a package through a travel agent, and even meal requests (note, pass on pre-ordering the halal option).

DHS says that different airlines collect different bits of data, so it can't always predict exactly what it will be working with, but the Department makes it clear that it intends to parse every scrap of information it can get its hands on.

And it seems to say that airline data is only an example of the sort of commercial information it will be using. ATS does not collect information directly from individuals. The information maintained in ATS is either collected from private entities providing data in accordance with U.S. legal requirements (e.g., PNR [passenger name records] from air carriers regarding individual passengers) or is created by ATS as part of the risk assessment and associated rules.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.