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What US Homeland Security collects about you

Inside your terrorist score

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Any time a person crosses the US border, the Department of Homeland Security assigns travelers with a "risk assessment" score to divine their likelihood of any involvement with a terrorist cell or criminal activity.

That score is calculated by feeding a large volume of personal information into an automated system (rather imposingly) called the "Automated Targeting System," or ATS. But what sensitive dirt the DHS stores about the average person isn't generally known.

Security blogger Sherri Davidoff of Philosecurity recently posted an interesting example of an American citizen's DHS travel records as obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. While portions of the document are redacted by the Department, it still reveals the ATS records include: credit card numbers and their expiration dates, IP addresses used to make travel arrangements, birth date and passport numbers, frequent flyer numbers (including those not used for the trip), travel agent information, hotel reservation data, and even travel preferences specified in the airline reservations (Window seat eh? Very suspicious).

Get a look at the DHS report here (personal bits are redacted, but described, by the report's subject for obvious privacy reasons).

While there's clearly a lot of personal data kept on record by the DHS, (a full credit card number and expiration date is necessary to determine a terror threat level? Really?) what's also interesting is the information left out. The author claims a change of hotels made only upon arrival for a trip wasn't listed — suggesting the DHS gets its data from travel broker itineraries rather than tracking credit card receipts.

We'd say there may be other clues on how to fly under the DHS's radar in the document, but that would be a terrific way to introduce our colons to an elephantine airport security guard's rubber glove next time we travel. ®

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