A few months back, the TSA put out a request to solicit private sector applications to assist them in growing public enrollment to the TSA PreCheck program. The program currently has about 950,000 members. Former TSA administrator, John Pistole, and others would like to grow that number significantly.
Reacting to privacy advocates’ concerns about private sector companies executing this extension, as well as concerns from GBTA, ACTE and others, the TSA withdrew the request for proposal. At issue is the access these companies would be given to program applicants’ criminal and other government records, directories, press reports, location data, and perhaps their retail purchases as well as the information they post on blogs and social media sites.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for protecting an individual’s privacy, but in this age of social media and the growing use of big data that we live in, isn’t the horse already out of the barn? Does anyone really believe that anything is completely private these days? In the case of TSA PreCheck, I willingly forfeited some degree of privacy when I applied to the program, and in return get expedited processing at security checkpoints when I travel. I’m fine with that (actually I love it, especially when the regular lines are long and I can fly through security). I’m also fine with willingly providing my contact information in return for a special offer from a retailer, or any other entity that trades on information. Isn’t that what the opt-in process is all about?
Of course, opting in doesn’t mean I want someone selling my information or using it in some way that I did not authorize. But if you read the fine print of even something like the Apple iOS Software Licensing Agreement we all agree to when we initiate our iPhones, there’s a lot of vague language regarding the use of private data. As one example, did you know that everything you say to Siri can be used and shared? The reason cited is to understand and recognize you better as a way to improve the service, but who knew there was so much leeway in that agreement? I did not, but can certainly appreciate why the language is there. I also trust that Apple is using the data as suggested, although I’ll probably stop playing “Fun with Siri,” a little game I invented involving asking Siri crazy questions to see what responses I get.
Generally speaking, I think we’ve gotten pretty lax about limiting what we share and trade with respect to personal information. We do so for a number of reasons, one of which is to foster a more “personalized” relationship with the technology or entities we interact with.
So, I think the blustering over the privacy of data is really overblown.
As to the concerns about private sector involvement and execution, I have to think that the proper steps will be taken to safeguard the information, regardless of whether it’s the government or a private company doing the TSA PreCheck screening. Does anyone really think the government does a better job or protecting data than anyone else? (If you do, you’re probably one of those people that have a personal email server set up in your home.)
This concern, in my opinion, is also overblown.
That said, I am emphatically against anything that opens up the TSA PreCheck!
The reason is very simple. I like my security lines short or not at all!
Just don’t tell anybody, because that information is private.