Airline Industry Accepts Prescreening--With 7 Provisos

CAPPS II is accepted by the Air Transport Association so long as the feds follow seven privacy principles.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government must adopt specific privacy protections before implementing a plan to use personal information to rank all airline passengers as potential security threats, the trade group for major U.S. airlines says.

The Air Transport Association said it supports the concept of the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II, provided the government follows seven "privacy principles." The Associated Press obtained the list of principles Tuesday, a day before they were to be unveiled at a House hearing.

The guidelines seek to ensure the Transportation Security Administration collects only personal information pertaining to aviation security, stores it securely and gets rid of it as soon as travel is completed. The airlines also said that passengers must be allowed to access their personal information and correct any errors.

"At the end of the day, the system isn't going to be any good if we can't assure privacy for the flying public's information," ATA President James May said.

The TSA has said it wants to put the program in place this summer. However, that likely will be pushed back because of airlines' reluctance to share passenger records needed to test the plan.

The Bush administration has said if the airlines won't voluntarily turn over the records it will order them to do so.

TSA spokesman Dennis Murphy said the government doesn't plan to store passenger information, except for potential terrorists. He said the issue isn't whether people can see their data but if they can redress errors.

"We have what we believe is an effective way to do it but we don't know it's effective until we test it," he said.

The TSA's program would check information such as a name, address and date of birth against commercial and government databases. Each passenger would be given one of three color-coded ratings.

Suspected terrorists and violent criminals would be designated as red and forbidden to fly. Passengers who raise questions would be classified as yellow and would receive extra security screening. The vast majority would be designated green and allowed through routine screening.

The TSA also wants to use the program to catch violent criminals, which it says is a way to safeguard air passengers. But May said that will take the focus of the program away from the TSA's mandate to prevent terrorism.

Beyond privacy issues, the airlines say there are questions about how the government plans to implement CAPPS II. May said that 70 percent of airline reservations now are made through third parties such as travel agents and computerized reservation systems.

If those third parties don't obtain the required information, then airlines will have to do it at the airport, which will cause delays, he said.

"There must be a concomitant and equal requirement on these folks that they collect the requisite information from the passenger at the time the reservation is made," May said.

The TSA has said all those who book tickets will be required to obtain the passenger data needed for CAPPS II.

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