Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has this week implemented yet another new set of rules regarding entry to the United States.The Automated Targeting System (ATS), under its ATS-Passenger module, allows this mighty department to gather data on passengers arriving in America by airline.This is collected from information travellers have already provided for the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) and Passenger Name Record (PNR). The new element is that DHS staff then give the passenger a "risk assessment."As the DHS paper states the aim is to "evaluate passengers and crew members prior to arrival or departure."It assists the CBP (Custom and Border Protection) officer's decision-making process about whether a passenger or crew member should receive additional screening prior to entry into or departure from the country because the traveller may pose a greater risk for violation of US law."The catches are manifold. The department plans to keep information gathered for up to 40 years; it can in circumstances be made available to other US organisations; there is no individual access to the information to check its accuracy; and as the DHS puts it "there is no procedure to correct the risk assessment and associated rules stored in ATS as the assessment is based on the underlying data and will change when the data from source system(s) is amended."Not surprisingly, this has caused a furore in the States and may well do in Europe. In the States, among the objectors are the Business Travel Coalition (BTC), The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), the US Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).This last body called ATS "an invasive and unprecedented data-mining system."Perhaps one of the most insidious things about ATS is that the US government has been using it for four years without public knowledge or Congressional approval.Yet the stakes could not be higher. As one US blogger put it this week: "Good information or bad, if your "risk profile" is too high, you could be denied travel to and from the US."He could and should have added that you have no right of either access or appeal. For business travellers for whom travelling to and from the US on a regular basis is vital, any high rating could be devastating.The European Parliament was markedly opposed to a previous attempt by the US government to demand information about travellers going to the States, denouncing it as an invasion of privacy.The sticking points then were for the MEPs the breadth of information demanded, its availability to other US organisations and the planned retention time.Like the Bourbons, the Americans do not seemed to have learned from their previous mistakes â€“ unless of course they never regarded them as mistakes in the first place but merely saw the Europeans as being "soft" on things like liberty and privacy.In a letter to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Bill Connors, executive director of the NBTA,said: "For users to trust such a system, they must be reasonably assured that their data is safe and secure, and they must know that they have access to a reasonably quick and simple redress process should the system misidentify them as a risk or otherwise do them harm."Unfortunately, DHS's November 2, 2006, Notice of Privacy Act system ofrecords outlines a 40-year retention policy for ATS data and specifically notes that the system does not include a formal redress procedure."ACTE has called for ATS to be suspended "until congressional hearings and more public dialogue can be held."The Association said it believed that ATS circumvents the US Privacy Act of 1974 by "assigning secret risk assessment to international passengers."Greeley Koch, its president, said: "ACTE has always argued that a reasonable redress procedure must be an essential part of any government security programme."It has been conspicuously absent in CAPPSII, Secure Flight, the Registered Traveler Program, and now the Automated Targeting System. This is simply unacceptable."Such measures as ATS can undermine business travel but more fundamentally they attack civil rights.As Mr Koch says, they are "simply unacceptable."
* see BTE's recruitment site www.businesstraveljobs.com