I'm not particularly bothered by the fact that the Transportation Security Administration is seeking passenger information from the airlines for a new screening system that's part of its counterterrorism efforts. As a frequent traveler, I'm all for initiatives that make air travel safer. But I also expect the same type of privacy assurances from the government that I want from businesses. Just as I'd expect the CEO of the bank I use to tell customers their data is protected, I'd like to hear from privacy officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA that they--personally--take full responsibility and accountability for privacy protection of the passenger data that they're seeking from the airlines.
Many issues need to be resolved: Should the data be pushed to TSA, which would require a substantial IT investment? Should it be pulled from TSA, which would raise new privacy issues? Will there be written privacy policies that take into account the airlines' concerns? I hope these things are resolved quickly. There's too much at stake for this situation to turn into a long debate on privacy vs. safety. I expect both.