When Shira Newman flies home from Tel Aviv this summer, she won’t be worried about long lines at the airport or short tempers on the plane. Instead, she’ll be concerned about her Samsung Galaxy S7 phone — specifically, the information on it. “How can you protect your right to digital privacy at the border?”
It’s not your imagination. Your consumer rights are vanishing.
Not a day seems to go by that you don’t see news of another consumer regulation being dismantled, a law coming undone, an anti-consumer executive order being signed. “Your consumer rights are disappearing. Here’s how to protect yourself now.”
When the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check formally launches sometime this fall, its trusted-traveler program will already have the enthusiastic endorsement of frequent travelers — and an equally enthusiastic denouncement from privacy advocates.
Pre-Check offers an appealing shortcut past the often long airport security lines. After you pay an enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview, the TSA promises to treat you like a VIP. You’ll be sent to a preferred line, where you can leave your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, leave your laptop in its case and keep your bag of liquids and gels in your carry-on.
“I can’t say enough about how much I love it,” says Ralph Velasco, a photographer based in Corona del Mar, Calif. “It’s saved me many, many hours. I’d highly recommend it.”
How do Velasco and others know about the benefits of Pre-Check?
Because the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems has slowly rolled out the program in 40 airports since 2011.
Travelers could opt in to Pre-Check through their frequent-flier program or through another government trusted-traveler initiative, such as Global Entry, a similar program that allows travelers to cut the customs line when they return to the United States from overseas.
“TSA’s new Pre-Check programs raises major privacy concerns”
Recent revelations of the National Security Agency’s sweeping domestic surveillance programs may have angered many Americans, but for most travelers, it was nothing new.
Surrendering your right to privacy is the price you pay to travel anywhere in a post-9/11 world. You fork over your personal information to the airlines, hotels and the Transportation Security Administration with no expectation, much less a guarantee, that it will be kept confidential.
“There is no privacy,” says Tab Stone, a pediatrician from Los Angeles who’s a frequent traveler. “Reservation information is shared with the TSA if you’re on a flight. If you use a credit card to pay, it’s in a database. For years, many other countries have required hotels to hold or copy passports and give the information to the local authorities.”
“Privacy? There’s no such thing on the road”
Several days after Traci Fox visited a small independent resort in the Catskill Mountains, she received an unexpected call from a shoe store. Where did she want it to ship the $400 worth of pricey sneakers that she’d ordered?
Just one problem: She hadn’t purchased any footwear. As Fox, a college professor from Philadelphia, rummaged through her pocketbook to find her credit card, the phone rang again.
“It was Coach handbags asking if I wanted the $750 worth of handbags shipped to a different address,” she says. Calls to her credit card revealed another bogus charge for $7,500 at Home Depot.
“When you check in, your privacy may check out”
One of the hot discussions this summer centered around the rights of mothers to nurse their babies on a plane.
“Can breast-feeding activists have it both ways on a plane?”
The TSA is at it again. Earlier this week, it announced that in an effort to “enhance security while strengthening privacy protection” it had begun testing new scanning technology that doesn’t show screeners naked images of passengers.
But that is not why I’m writing about the beleaguered federal agency again. I promised you, dear reader, that I would pace myself with these TSA posts, and I am trying. It’s been five days since my last one.
It seems we’re at it, too. Just as the government made a big splash with its new scanning technology announcement (and we had the usual cast of critics and apologists trading insults, which was disappointing) so, too, have passengers and their advocates made some important — yet largely unreported — progress.
Before we get to that, a few words about the “new” scanners, which are actually just a software upgrade. The application is being used in existing scanners at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and will be loaded into machines at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in “the very near future,” according to the agency.
In a blog post accompanying the announcement, the TSA claims that only a “small percentage of travelers have had privacy concerns” with the screening process, and that this fix “eliminates” them.
That’s an interesting perspective. I wonder what the tens of thousands of passengers who are subjected to a physical pat-down would have to say about that. What’s more, I wonder how that flies with the passengers who are worried about radiation from those scanners?
(If you can’t wait to answer the question, please scroll down and take today’s poll.)
“Do the TSA’s new body scanners solve our screening problems?”