Feeds

Feds implement mass passenger data trawl

Introducing the 'Automated Targeting System'

The essential guide to IT transformation

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 essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Broadband slow and expensive? Blame Telstra says CloudFlare
Won't peer, will gouge for Internet transit
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?