Monday, January 31, 2005

Using Junk Mail Lists to Screen Passengers

Using Junk Mail Lists to Screen Passengers

This won't affect me directly since I refuse to travel by air as long as passengers are treated like criminals. But from a Big Brother standpoint it's scary:

A controversial and much-delayed upgrade of the current airline passenger-screening system has gained new momentum, as officials have started testing the newly centralized computer system using real passenger data and are looking to see if commercial databases can help verify passengers' identification.

In the 1990s, the Direct Marketing Association promised it would not market its services to law enforcement since that would harm the direct-marketing industry, according to Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"Where are those promises today?" asked Hoofnagle . "These databases are only accurate enough for targeting of junk mail. That's what they are for."

Privacy activists, such as security consultant Richard M. Smith, argue those databases, which are used for direct marketing and fraud investigations, are inaccurate and that relying on them could lead to trouble for those whose data is outdated or for students or poor people who don't have much of a "data footprint."

And then there's the next step of scary: data mining for subscribers of specific publications? Starting with, say, any of these and expanding to... anything the Bush Administration trumps up for whatever reason?

I'm not being paranoid. In the 1910's and 1920's socialist publicatons and their readers were regularly target for harassment by postal and criminal authorities, using World War I as their justification. And education materials on birth control were flat-out banned from the mails as "obscene" in that same era. Our present government, with its "security" obsession and fundamentalist view on sexuality, is no more enlightened. Welcome to Gilead.

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