Airlines did not protect our privacy - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Airlines did not protect our privacy

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Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 10:54 pm | Updated: 5:07 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Think back. What were you doing between June 20 and July 5, 2002?

That 16-day period was when the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire was ablaze near Show Low.

Did you happen to fly aboard an America West Airlines plane then?

If you did, good portions of your financial and travel information also went for a ride, according to articles by the Tribune and The Associated Press last week.

America West and at least six other airlines and two computerized reservation companies provided supposedly confidential passenger records to a government contractor, including passenger names and corresponding credit card numbers, addresses and telephone numbers — plus travel reservation details, possibly including meal requests.

America West alone distributed 700,000 sets of records, said company spokeswoman Janice Monahan. Are you comfortable with that?

Is it OK with you that any number of data entry clerks at a company you never heard of had access to your credit cards? Is it all right with you that they had the freedom to peruse your travel itineraries?

It isn’t with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who said that distribution of the data was disturbing. He also said it may have violated the Privacy Act, which states that the government must notify people if it is violating their privacy.

The disclosures came out during a Senate committee hearing for the nomination of David Stone for administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.

The personal passenger information was collected to help the government contractor assemble a prototype computerized screening program for the government agency. The program has yet to be put into place.

The other airlines that distributed passenger information were American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue and Northwest. The reservation companies were Sabre and Galileo International. Did you fly on those airlines? Did you book trips through those outfits?

Tempe-based America West issued a statement that noted that the airline shared the confidential information with the understanding that the government contractor similarly wouldn’t share the confidential information with anyone else.

Is that OK with you? Is it all right that the contractor was allowed to retain records of where you went and who went with you?

America West’s statement noted that the contractor was supposed to destroy or return the records when it was finished raiding your personal affairs. It also stated that airline policy forbids similar intrusions for research projects.

Do you know America West’s mission statement?

"We will build a winning airline by taking care of our customers."

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