Jetsetters, take note: According to a front page article in Tuesday’s edition of the New York Times, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is learning much more about airline passengers than just their meal preference.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, but Times reporter Susan Stellin revealed this week that the TSA has access to a trove of huge databases — both federally and privately run — which it uses to keep track of information about almost anyone traveling through American airspace.
Tax identification numbers, old travel plans, property records and even physical characteristics are contained in these databases, Stellin wrote, which is then shared among government agencies and often combined with other information on record elsewhere, including intelligence maintained by the likes of debt collectors and other private agencies whose profits depend on digging up personal information.
This mass data-mining is being used by Department of Homeland Security agencies like the TSA as a tool to monitor suspected terrorists and other criminals, and could assist in an agency-wide goal of trimming time off of the notoriously lengthy security pat-downs currently in place at airports across the country. But while representatives from the TSA touted these efforts to the Times as necessary implements in ensuring utmost safety, privacy advocates are asking for change.
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