Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fliers' Privacy Safe, Entrepreneur Says

Fliers' privacy safe, entrepreneur says according to this USA Today story on the private sector companies working jointly with TSA on the controversial "Trusted Traveler" program. The scheme is odd in that businesses are handed the keys to unlock quick passage through airport check-in for frequent fliers after the government does mandatory background checks on those applicants.

The company handles iris scans and fingerprints and then issues an encrypted code and identity card to those who pass muster with the government.

This article interviews entrepreneur Steven Brill of "Verified Identity Pass" in a short overview of several companies that have signed their employees up (Hyatt Hotels, signed up VIP and frequent guests). The gist of this story is Brill reassuring everyone that ID card encryption is secure and that those participating can feel secure in the knowledge that their private information is safe and cannot be hacked, stolen or lost.

The odd thing is that this program is not handled entirely by TSA and that they are palming off the portions of the program that are most vulnerable to abuse to private contractors like Brill and other businesses to handle - the technology.

Participants in "Trusted Traveler" are likely to include celebrities, politicians and the wealthy in the beginning. While the yearly fee is less than $100 to participate in the "Trusted Traveler" or "Registered Traveler" program, those using the encrypted cards and subjected to quick fingerprint readers and iris scans can pass through airport security more quickly.

Those not willing to pay the yearly fee, not willing to be scanned, fingerprinted and background checked, will be waiting in long lines for what has become "normal" for airport security checks - removing coats, shoes and belts, opening laptops and emptying our pockets of metal objects to pass through scanners.

No doubt it will look much like the Southern California toll lanes on certain freeways at rush hour, where those paying fees zoom through - while stop and go creeping is the norm for everyone else.

One would assume that those "Trusted Traveler" members will still be scanned for weapons and nail clippers. After all, because someone has paid to avoid lines is no reason to trust their rationality or forgetfulness - is it? Is a "Trusted Traveler" less likely to do stupid, irrational things just because we know their fingerprints and iris scans are stored in a database?

What exactly is it that makes us more secure because a person has paid to be less thoroughly searched? While we can know that ID# 12345 has boarded a United flight to Atlanta - and we are sure of who that person is, do we know their mental state or intentions?

Maybe a brain scan of those "Trusted Travelers" would be more appropriate than an iris scan when it comes to airline security - and possibly a brain scan of those employees working the airport equipment. Here's hoping that the profit-making companies handling security for "Trusted Traveler" don't cover up database breaches, hacking attempts, bribes, disgruntled employee abuses or equipment failure in order to look better and hang on to contracts with the TSA.

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posted by RealitySEO at 3:16 PM


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