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US/E.U. plan to database airline passengers' personal information raises deep privacy concerns
Nick Langewis
Published: Sunday July 29, 2007


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While Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff calls it "an essential security measure," worries arise about a looming privacy threat in the new agreement between the United States and the European Union, effective August 1, 2007, that allows the United States to keep extensive profiles of inbound airline passengers.

In addition to data such as name, address, flight itineraries, and credit card information, the United States will now database more intimate details about passengers as provided by airlines, such as race, political opinions, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.

Personal data received, even on people not under suspicion, is to be kept on file for fifteen years and only used "when lives are at risk," such as during a terror investigation.

"We're going to be able to connect the dots more quickly," says Russell Knocke of the US Department of Homeland Security, "and we're going to be able to provide our front line personnel with a powerful tool that really can help to save lives."

Jim Dempsey of the Center of Democracy and Technology worries about how the information will be used, especially in cases of abuse and false accusations. "This is part of a broader trend of the government building databases on the ordinary, lawful activities of ordinary, law-abiding people," laments Dempsey.

Passengers will have the right to see the information, and there will be avenues to correct anything that needs to be corrected "in hopefully just a few months," says CNN's Kathleen Koch.

The following video is from CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, broadcast on July 27.