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Thu, Feb 03, 2005

TSA Moves Ahead With CAPPS II

Testing Underway With New -- Commercial -- Databases

The TSA continues moving ahead with its plans for life after CAPPS II -- a federally-mandated, commercially driven database that knows who you are, what you buy and whether you make your payments on time, aimed at deciding whether you can fly commercial or ride the bus.

Wired Magazine reports the government is trying to create a one-way information pipe without the risk of backflow. Airlines would provide the data to the government, but the TSA would have to make sure that information flowed only one way -- not back to the airlines or their own credit agents.

Still, the government is stuck with a name-matching scheme born early in the last century. That worries privacy advocates like Quincy Smith.

To hear Wired tell it, Quincy moved recently and almost right away started getting junk mail aimed at a guy named Richard Smith. So Quincey sent Richard a letter.

"We don't know each other, but we are now linked permanently in direct-marketing databases. I hope you are not a terrorist or associate with known terrorists. Otherwise, airplane travel is going to become a major hassle for my family and I."

No matter how the system tests for accuracy, Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says it should never be used for sorting potential terrorists from everyday passengers.

"These databases are only accurate enough for targeting of junk mail," Hoofnagle told Wired. "That's what they are for."

FMI: www.epic.org

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