TSA and commercial databases to track you

by Wendy Thomson on January 19, 2013


The TSA has put out another request for information to partner with private industry. As indicated in this recent post at TSA News, they want corporations to comb through their customer databases to help the TSA identify “trusted” travelers.

This should be troubling to everyone, especially those who’ve ever had their identity stolen or who’ve discovered an inaccurate negative event on their credit report. Or who are aware of the Catch-22 people have found themselves in when they learn they’ve shown up on the no-fly list. Welcome to their nightmare.

The horror of these situations was brought home again to me just last week. I serve on a non-profit board with a prominent owner of a successful architectural firm. He’s in his 50s and has a sterling community reputation and educational pedigree. We both live within 45 minutes of the Canadian border. As such, my colleague conducts a fair amount of business across the border. In fact, he had a job in Canada last year that he visited every other week. Therefore, he didn’t blink an eye when he set up an appointment for himself and a designer and headed for the border last week for another opportunity.

But this time, he was stopped. And turned away, because Canadian authorities said that the U.S. told them he was an “undesirable.” Furthermore, that he was a convicted felon. He was able to get them to describe the crime he allegedly committed 30-some years ago. At that time he was a sophomore in the Honors College of one of the top universities in the country.

My hapless colleague apologized to his traveling companion, canceled the appointment, and will lose $2,000 for every thwarted trip. So now he’s paying an attorney to get his name cleared. This database screw-up is costing this man tens of thousands of dollars.

Think long and hard before you tell me that “anything for safety” is a good idea. Or that we should trust the TSA or corporate America with our private, personal information.

Oh, and if you haven’t yet figured this out, 30-some years ago my friend was not out committing felonies. He was getting an education.

(Photo: bavatuesdays/Flickr Creative Commons)

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