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Feds implement mass passenger data trawl

Introducing the 'Automated Targeting System'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Note, created by ATS. So yes, they are indeed creating profiles - dossiers, if you will - of everyone who travels anywhere for any reason. And note the present tense here: "Every traveller and all shipments are processed through ATS, and are subject to a real-time rule based evaluation." This system is live, and has been for a while. And you thought Congress had shut it down.

Still, the system is nothing if not fair. "ATS applies the same methodology to all individuals to preclude any possibility of disparate treatment of individuals or groups. ATS is consistent in its evaluation of risk associated with individuals," we're told. Which is a wonderfully PC justification concealing the fact that the government can't rest until it knows everything about everybody.

But don't waste time asking the government about what it's doing. You might be an open book, but it must remain shrouded in secrecy in order to serve your interests to the fullest. Thus, "ATS is a system that supports CBP [DHS Bureau of Customs and Border Protection] law enforcement activities; as such, an individual might not be aware of the reason additional scrutiny is taking place, nor should he or she, as this may compromise the means and methods of how CBP came to require further scrutiny."

Still, the Department is aware of the privacy issues that travellers might be concerned about. "The privacy risks ... include: information may not be accurate or timely because it was not collected directly from the individual; the information could be used in a manner inconsistent with the privacy policy stated at the time of collection; and/or the individual may not be aware that the information is being used by ATS for the stated purposes; and/or a negative CBP action could be taken in reliance upon computer generated information in ATS that has been skewed by inaccurate data".

It's aware of privacy problems, all right, but not terribly concerned. DHS will be doing all of its safeguarding of your privacy in house. "As part of CBP’s inspection policies and procedures no adverse action is taken by CBP with respect to an individual, cargo, or conveyance, until the relevant information is reviewed by a well-trained CBP officer," we are assured.

It will be up to CBP alone to determine whether or not the information it gathers is accurate. Still, DHS admits that ATS "relies upon the source systems to ensure that data used by ATS is accurate and complete. Discrepancies may be identified in the context of a CBP officer’s review of the data and the CBP officer will take action to correct that information, when appropriate.

"Although ATS is not the system of record for most of the source data, ATS monitors source systems for changes to the source system databases. Continuous source system updates occur in real-time or near realtime from TECS, ACE, AMS, APIS, ACS, AES, and NCIC.

"When corrections are made to data in source systems, ATS updates this information immediately and only the latest data is used. In this way, ATS integrates all updated data (including accuracy updates) in as close to real-time as possible".

So, they're using the venerable Google model of data integrity. If ATS contains spurious data about you, you must contact the agency or data broker from whom they obtained it, and persuade them to correct it. And then wait for ATS to trawl the information again, Google-wise, and automatically update it.

Of course, the system has to operate behind a veil of secrecy to remain effective, so it might be quite a challenge to learn which "source system" is supplying the inaccurate data about you to the ATS.

But don't worry; you'll have plenty of time to get things sorted out. "Generally, data maintained specifically by ATS will be retained for up to forty years," DHS explains. ®

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