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United States Privacy Transportation

TSA Asked to Ensure Safety Of Customer Data After Clear Closing 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the privacy-to-the-highest-bidder dept.
CWmike writes "The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has given the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) until July 8 to explain how the agency plans to ensure the security of private data collected by a recently shuttered company that offered a registered traveler program. In a letter to the TSA's acting assistant secretary, Thompson expressed his concern over the abrupt closure of Verified Identity Pass (VIP), which offered a service called Clear for a $199 annual fee that helped air travelers get through airport security checks faster by vetting their identities and backgrounds in advance. VIP has left open the possibility that the data could end up being acquired or sold to a third-party, but only if it was going to be used for a registered traveler program."
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TSA Asked to Ensure Safety Of Customer Data After Clear Closing

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  • Good Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gamanimatron (1327245) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @02:53AM (#28554609) Journal
    Then maybe they can ask the nice wolves down the street to look after our hens while we're on that vacation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      We'll have to pay them $50 million.

      • It's like getting results from a doctor.

        "We'll phone you if we see anything on your x-ray."
        "We'll only tell you when we delete it."

    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @03:49AM (#28554895)

      Then maybe they can ask the nice wolves down the street to look after our hens while we're on that vacation.

      They're probably going to outsource that job to their fox buddies and go looking for lucrative sheep-watching contracts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ethan0 (746390)

      I couldn't even finish the headline before I was laughing out loud, I only got as far as TSA Asked to Ensure Safety and I was gone.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @03:05AM (#28554675)
    $199 x 260,000 customers = $51,740,000.

    This company shut down for "financial" reasons. Like they took the money and ran?

    I'm not surprised, the TSA and its money grubbing sycophantic associates are a steaming pile of shit.

    All this company does is do background checks and issue a plastic card, and they can't do it for 51 million gross?

    Typical government contractor type boondoggle (strictly speaking, they were not a contractor).
    • $199 x 260,000 customers = $51,740,000. This company shut down for "financial" reasons. Like they took the money and ran? I'm not surprised, the TSA and its money grubbing sycophantic associates are a steaming pile of shit. All this company does is do background checks and issue a plastic card, and they can't do it for 51 million gross? Typical government contractor type boondoggle (strictly speaking, they were not a contractor).

      They also invested in scanners at checkpoints and staff to manage them. And may of those users didn't pay, but got them for free as a result of an affinity program; Delta, Marriot, et. al. no doubt paid way less for large numbers of memberships. Plus any active duty military got a free membership as well.

    • by SeaDuck79 (851025)

      $199 x 260,000 customers = $51,740,000.

      This company shut down for "financial" reasons. Like they took the money and ran?

      I'm not surprised, the TSA and its money grubbing sycophantic associates are a steaming pile of shit.

      All this company does is do background checks and issue a plastic card, and they can't do it for 51 million gross?

      Typical government contractor type boondoggle (strictly speaking, they were not a contractor).

      They did more than that. They had to install, operate, and man (overman, IMO) stations in each of the airports in which they offered service.

      The promise is that it would speed a pre-vetted traveler through airport security lines. The problem is that there was little value add to its most likely customer base, most of whom were elite members of one or more airlines that already granted them that privilege. I signed up because my hotel chain gave me a free year, but I sometimes didn't even bother to use it

      • I had the same 1 year free offer from my favorite hotel chain but declined. And this was when I was flying weekly. A couple reasons why I didn't. First, a Clear line was available at my destination airport, but not at my home airport. My destination was relatively small and rarely did it take me more than five minutes to get through the normal security line. At my home airport, I would have loved such a service. My normal terminal was packed with commuters like myself every Monday morning, and my term

    • You know, I want to agree with you. I really do. My ideology calls me to agree with you.

      But, as someone who contracts with the government and understands how much of a pain in the ass it is, $52m/year for a nationwide program is absolute peanuts.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not that it matters, I'm sure it had a "we can change this at will without notifying you" clause, like every other one.

    • A sad fact (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't matter what the privacy policy says. Nobody pays attention to those anyways. Nobody cares. Really. Do you see 260 000 people on the barricades because of this? No? If they ever hear about their data being sold, they will be "Uhh. I don't like that." and continue as if nothing had happened.

      Except one of them who will raise a lawsuit - not because he or she actually cared about the data that much but because he or she sees that as an easy opportunity to become a multimillionaire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      It doesn't matter. Privacy policies can't violate data protection laws. You do have data protection laws, right? Oh. The USA. Sorry, never mind.
      • by jc42 (318812)

        Privacy policies can't violate data protection laws.

        Well, no, but the companies who write those policies can and do.

        Company policies are written (or at least vetted) by lawyers who make sure that a policy doesn't contain a blatantly illegal clause. But if you think that companies never violate their own written policies, I have a very nice bridge to sell you out in San Francisco. Such policies are PR documents; they have little effect on the company's actual behavior, except toward customers with the fina

        • That's exactly the point of GP: the lack of data protection laws in the USA fatally leads to aberrant situations like this.

          As a Europan, if I was "antiamerican", I would find it laughable, but since I'm not I just find it tragic.

          Oh, and weird, too.

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @03:24AM (#28554771)

    Is anyone else bothered by the very existence of these companies? "Pay us and we'll get you through the security faster by taking all this personal information and running it through the security checks early, etc."

    The hassle is a part of the security program designed by the TSA to keep Americans safer, not create new business opportunities. It seems to me the TSA should be offering the same service to travelers for free. Let people submit the same information beforehand, have all the info run through checks, and stored so folks are less inconvenienced by the "safety measures" they insist on.

    • by Kijori (897770) <{ward.jake} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @05:41AM (#28555401)

      Rather brilliantly, by having this card you didn't reduce the security checks at the airport - you just got to skip to the front of the queue. This does mean that security wasn't compromised in the slightest - but it also raises the question of why the company kept doing expensive background checks that served no purpose since the card didn't get you through security!

      • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @06:02AM (#28555481)

        From what I gathered, when you were a Clear customer you went through a separate line than everyone else. So perhaps this has nothing at all to do with security, it was nothing more than a way to legitimize the practice of bribes to get to the front of a long line.

        If the service is actually able to reduce airport check-out times as much as former customers claim, and not sacrifice security at all, then all it shows is how inefficient the TSA's system is, and DHS should be revamping to emulate these services, making them unneeded. But if the service really wasn't any faster than "regular" security, and the saved time was nothing more than the fact the line itself wasn't so long, then the TSA doing the same thing would not have the same effect, as with the service now free more people would use it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by maxume (22995)

          If the card customers are bearing the full cost of the additional lines, is it really a bribe?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ihlosi (895663)

            If the card customers are bearing the full cost of the additional lines, is it really a bribe?

            No, it's more like a protection racket. You pay and get protected from a possibly lengthy and intrusive search of your person and your stuff.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mcgrew (92797)

            Of course it is, but it's a legal bribe, like donating to both major candidates running for the same office is. Some bribes are legal, but they're still bribes.

            • by maxume (22995)

              Isn't it more akin to buying premium vodka than buying a politician?

              I mean, if you can afford it, you can skip the security checks entirely (by buying or renting a jet).

          • by Alinabi (464689)

            If the card customers are bearing the full cost of the additional lines, is it really a bribe?

            I don't know, would it be a bribe if someone was bearing the full cost of a separate, shorter queue for organ transplants? I'm inclined to say yes. And I don't see how this is different.

            • by maxume (22995)

              That essentially everybody makes it through security in time for their flights seems like a rather significant difference.

              The number of screeners can even be increased if the wait in the regular line becomes too long.

              Of course, there is some chance that rich people will be able to jump to the head of the organ transplant line sometime in the next 30 years, mad scientist doctors are quite far along the path of growing new organs from harvested cells.

        • by bmoore (106826)

          It may have been the intent to have separate lines for Clear customers, but I know that wasn't the case at the Albany, NY airport. There, Clear customers just got the skip to the front of the line, just like airline / airport workers. They still went through the same check lines as everybody else; just didn't need to wait to show their ID.

        • by SeaDuck79 (851025)

          TSA's system is inefficient, though they are, in their sluglike bureaucratic way, moving every so slightly towards the illusion of efficiency.

          The problem with Clear is that most of the people who travel enough to make it worth getting the card already get a shortcut through security by their membership in one or more elite airline programs. So there turned out to be little real ROI. Half the time, the airports I fly through didn't have much of a security line anyway, so there was no point in using the car

    • by mh1997 (1065630) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @06:47AM (#28555667)

      The hassle is a part of the security program designed by the TSA to keep Americans safer....

      I fly a couple times a week and can assure you that the hassle is not designed to keep you safer. It is for the illusion that "they" are doing "something" and therefore you must be safer. I fly out of 4 different airports on a regular basis and have know when and where lapses are in security.

      My destinations are government facilities or military basis where you have to show ID, armed guards etc. Same thing - it is the illusion of security.

      To the casual observer or an infrequent flyer, it looks very secure and you can't imagine how to breach security. To the frequent user, you don't need to imagine how to breach security, you can see it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nihaopaul (782885)

        i have to agree, safety is the least of their concern, much more work is done to get into a chinese datacenter unescorted than to pass security at the airports, but this is world wide not just America. security at the airports is for show, many times i've forgotten to empty my bag before flying and found out i've got a multipurpose screwdriver set and once i forgot to take my dive knife out of my carry on. and went through 2 international and one domestic airport.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:53AM (#28556419) Journal

        I fly a couple times a week and can assure you that the hassle is not designed to keep you safer.

        Actually, it is. Various studies have shown that people under stress are likely to panic when they are hassled or surprised, and make mistakes. If you are about to blow up a plane, you are under a lot of stress and the kind of thing that is slightly irritating for the rest of us is a major psychological problem.

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by wilsoniya (902930)
          [citation needed]
          • [citation needed]

            I agree. The potential bomber/hijacker can make as many dry runs as he wants to in order to become acclimated to the mysterious ways of the TSA. He won't be irritated or distracted by them, if anything he'll be comforted by their silly ineffectiveness. If he makes enough dry runs from his departure airport, he'll probably even get to the point where he is on a first name basis with the TSA agents there and instead of dicking around with him, they'll rush him through with a friendly smile since the other

      • by mcgrew (92797) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:51AM (#28556993) Homepage Journal

        The USAF used to be pretty good a security (but I'm talking early '70s here). Once when I was on light duty because of an injury, they loaned me to the SPs (USAF equivalent to MPs) to test flightline security. They held my security badge and had me try to get in the cockpit of a C5-A holding a cardboard box. It was actually skewed in my favor, because my job was normally on the flightline hauling AGE equipment.

        I did actually get in once, I think somebody got in trouble over that. After the test the flightline people were a lot more observant.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by shermo (1284310)

          You got in once. That's all it takes. How is that 'pretty good' at security?

          Really it is mindboggling the odds stacked against security systems, so it's no wonder they create such elaborate and ultimately futile systems.

          • by mcgrew (92797)

            That was the whole point, to find where your security is weak so you can strengthen it. Did the same excersize a week later and that time, everyone was observant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hubbell (850646)
      The best part is that the clusterfuck known as TSA security in an airport has done nothing to increase the safety of fliers. The only thing it has done is violated the rights of thousands of Americans, and so far only Steven Bierfeldt [cnn.com] from the campaign for liberty has had the balls to stand up to them.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @07:07AM (#28555735) Homepage Journal

      and that the TSA cannot do this BY NOW.

      Let alone the whole fact that the TSA is yet another example of government sanctioned Political Connectedness run amok. My mom finally had a flight; she flies a few times a years; where she didn't get stopped. What makes her stand out? Oh, I dunno, but age sixty plus white women with small dogs are apparently a threat to US security. They don't even seem to notice her bag with needles for her insulin, or the pump attached to her. Yeah, last time she traveled she didn't have the dog.

      Throw in the stories about how the TSA cannot profile and then how do we expect to have "security". You get it by profiling. Sorry, but when the next plane gets 'jacked all that political connectedness will have done what? Gotten more people killed.

      Besides, the next method will be to shoot one down that is taking off. That will make 9/11's flight scares look benign.

      So now we need private companies because the efficiency of a union staffed government agency is below par. What part of DUH don't people understand. Yet so many here want to turn over their health care to these same goons who can't even get you to your plane on time. Where is the proper sense of priorities here?

      • by Quothz (683368) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:17AM (#28556141) Journal

        Throw in the stories about how the TSA cannot profile and then how do we expect to have "security". You get it by profiling.

        Hm? The TSA is allowed to profile, as long as they don't base it on race. This isn't insecure in and of itself; Timmy McVeigh, for example, scored pretty high on the caucasometer. The TSA has a lot of problems - a lot of problems - but their injunction against racial profiling isn't one of 'em.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          Grow your hair and beard out, and show up in tshirt, jeans, & sandals, walking with a cane. They'll search you. Guaranteed. It happened to me the two times I flew last year. For the record, I'm 50+, blonde, grey eyes, half ethnic Russian. Yeah, they profile you. Or should I say, reverse-profile you. It might be politically incorrect to search somebody who's 'obviously' Muslim, so they make sure they search a couple obvious gringos to 'make up' for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797)

        so many here want to turn over their health care to these same goons who can't even get you to your plane on time

        Incompetence, like competence, starts ate the top. The reason that it took five days to get water to the Superdome (and why the TSA is such a clusterfuck) is because the people at the top were unqualified for the jobs they were appointed to because the President was incompetent at his job as well.

        To counter your example, in March 12, 2006 my town was hit by two F-2 tornados [slashdot.org]. The devastation was s

        • by chihowa (366380)

          Later that year an F-1 hit the St Louis area; I visited a friend in Cahokia that weekend and it was NOTHING like the destruction in my neighborhood. But it took the Amerin corporation a month to get his (very expensive) power back on.

          I don't mean to detract from the sentiment that you're trying to convey (that the response varies based on who's doing it?), but Ameren, as a company, is extremely well known for being a worthless fuck-up. I wouldn't be surprised if it took them a month to change a lightbulb.

          Yet so many here want to keep their health care in the hands of these same goons who can't even keep your lights on in a storm.

          Thankfully, Ameren probably wouldn't be the people running the healthcare system. I doubt that anyone here is suggesting that.

          • by mcgrew (92797)

            Nobody is suggesting that FEMA should run the health care system, either. Christ, it took five days to get water to the Superdome and they turned away truckloads of donated food and water. Bush probably still thinks "Brownie" did a great job, thinking "this is government, you're SUPPOSED to fuck things up!"

            That's what happens when you put incompetent people in charge - they appoint and hire other incompetent people. Illinois will suffer from Blago's incompetence for years, maybe decades.

            If Obama appoints an

            • by chihowa (366380)

              If Obama appoints anyone even remotely associated with the insurance industry to be in charge of health care, we're fucked.

              You know he will, too. After all, they are experts in the field, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        You get it by profiling.

        Damn straight. Every terrorist who has attacked America has been either a Muslim, a Christian, or right-wing kook. The pattern is obvious: conservative religious people are a threat to our very way of life. But when we recognize that threat, their powerful lobby and traitorous friends in the mainstream media kick in and start singing the political correctness whine [huffingtonpost.com].

    • by bonedog73 (982895)
      The option to do this would be fair, soon we'll all get those barcodes stamped on our foreheads....then we'll ALL be SAFE!
  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @03:28AM (#28554789) Homepage
    According to the Computerworld article:

    "They had your social security information, credit information, where you lived, employment history, fingerprint information," said Clear customer David Maynor, who is chief technical officer with Errata Security in Atlanta. "They should be the only ones who have access to that information."

    and

    "Other providers, who may now be interested in purchasing Clear's assets, include Flo and Preferred Traveler. "

    Given the capability by companies to effectively hide their interested principals through convoluted international structures I wonder how hard it would be for a front-company to buy this info on behalf of criminal organisations, terrorist groups or other nation states.
    • by muckracer (1204794) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @04:22AM (#28555061)

      This story is also IMHO a great example, just why any kind of centralized databases filled with info about people is a BAD idea, regardless of how official and sensible it might seem at first.

      • This story is also IMHO a great example, just why any kind of centralized databases filled with info about people is a BAD idea, regardless of how official and sensible it might seem at first.

        Isn't it just an example why it's a bad idea having a company keep a centralized database filled with info about people?

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Of course, if it really HAD been an "official" government thing rather than a for-profit company, they couldn't have gone bankrupt in the first place... so about the only lesson that could be drawn there is that the free market is the wrong approach here.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jrumney (197329)

          I'm a bit pissed about this. When I registered my details as a pre-requisite for a transit flight through the US en route to Canada a few months ago, I'm pretty sure the website I registered on was a .gov, and there was no indication that this data would be held by a private, for profit company and would be up for sale shortly.

          • by Skater (41976)
            That wasn't Clear - that probably was the US gov't checking on you evil foreigners. Clear was a for-profit program that let you skip the security line in some airports.
            • by jrumney (197329)
              Ah right. I didn't realize there was a special program for domestic terrorists to preregister as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is only going to cost an extra $199 annually? Wow, I hope banks don't catch onto any of this. Otherwise it will be nothing but "You may present a potential security risk so before you can deposit that check we will need to either strip search you, OR you can just pay us 200 dollars."

  • I know that it isn't practical for some to travel by air. I've had to do it myself as part of the job, a time or two. But the last time I did it just wasn't the fun it experience that it used to be.

    • I agree air travel is not fun, but I think a lot of people put too much blame on TSA for that. Sure TSA sucks. They yell at you, they make you take your shoes off, and you have to wait in line. None of that I consider fun. But since I've started travelling at lot, most of my TSA frustrations have subsided. Simply because I learned the ins and outs of gettign through security efficiently without being hassled. But air travel still sucks big time. Unless you're in first class (which most regional fligh
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:17AM (#28556137)
    People must have had to file pairs of shoes with this company that have already been taken off and searched. They should ask the TSA to ensure the safety of the shoes too.
  • I've seen the Clear system in many airports. It was always empty. It always seemed to me that their ability to speed you though security was not because they possessed better background info but simply a matter of supply and demand - few occasional or even frequent travelers would pony up the $199. I never thought WHAT they did was any different - they still make you take out your computer, take off your shoes, etc. Having been through many non-Clear security lines, I'll tell you they I strongly doubt
    • by berashith (222128)

      They just had people consent to them gathering this data for a perceived reduction in hassle, so that they could legally get the info and shut down the company. Now they have this big pile of data to sell, and they got 200 bucks a pop for it already.

      This is one of those business plans, like bagged air, that makes me kick myself for not seeing and jumping in on.

  • As long as we're being told we'll be SAFE, Americans are willing to give up any and all freedoms. "Hand over all your private information and we'll keep you 'safe'." How are we any different than communist China these days... Our government gives us a few freedoms as long as we keep buying shit and making them rich. The only thing that matters anymore in this country is the Economy.

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