Privacy, security experts urge delay of passenger screening system

Congress should stop plans to do a live test of a controversial airline passenger screening system until the Department of Homeland Security's top official provides more details about how it works and the program's privacy policies, a panel of privacy and security experts said in a report to be published Monday.

The department's Transportation Security Administration has said it plans to conduct live tests at the end of the year of the next-generation airline passenger screening system known as Secure Flight.

The proposed system has come under fire both from privacy advocates and the Justice Department's inspector general, who released a critical report earlier this month.

The panel of nine security and privacy experts, which included Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten and Bruce Schneier, founder of the Internet security firm Counterpane, said in the report that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff should provide Congress with a signed, written statement on the goals of the project - goals that could only be changed on Chertoff's orders.

The department also should provide information on the technologies used in the Secure Flight program, how it works to achieve the stated goals, and what policies are in place to make sure that the stated goals are achieved. The panelists said they also want DHS to provide specifics on what information it collects about people, where the information comes from, how "it flows through the system," who has access to the information, and what the procedures are for its destruction.

"We believe live testing of Secure Flight should not commence until there has been adequate time to review, comment, and conduct a public debate on the additional documentation outlined above," said the report, a portion of which was obtained in advance by Technology Daily.

The report also provides recommendations on Secure Flight's future development in the areas of policy, regulatory and oversight structure, test uses of commercial data, the system's architecture, and the way it matches identities.

The report was discussed Thursday morning at a meeting convened by TSA's Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC.) The committee is composed of aviation industry associations, consumer rights organizations and labor unions, which provide feedback on administration policies through written reports. The work of the panelists -- called the Secure Flight Working Group -- was conducted on behalf of ASAC at the request of the TSA last year.

ASAC members received the report last Monday, and were asked by TSA officials at the meeting to vote on sending the report back immediately for review at the DHS' privacy office.

While some of the members said they did not have a chance to review the information, the committee agreed to send the report back to the privacy office immediately. Committee member Paul Hudson, founder of the independent public interest group the Aviation Consumer Action Project, obtained permission to send written comments for the record within 15 days.

"I certainly don't support the actions recommended at the end of [the report]. They would essentially be turning over the combination of the safe ... to the terrorists," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.