Before you get on an airplane, the government wants to sift through the personal details of your life. If the data analysis says you're a security risk, too bad—you may have no way of challenging the error. Worse still, that black mark could follow you for the rest of your life, and there may be little stopping the government from using your data for purposes far outside of travel screening.
The privacy invasions don't stop there. When you cross the U.S. border to come home, you could be singled out for a random invasive search. A recent court decision allows border agents to search your laptop or other digital device and copy the contents without limitation.
EFF has been fighting these schemes every step of the way—both in court and in Congress.
While the Supreme Court has ruled that customs and border agents can perform "routine" searches at the border without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion, the ongoing searches of laptops cell phones and other electronic devices at America's borders are unconstitutionally invasive. Agents often confiscate the devices make copies of the data and sometimes even transfer the information to other government agencies—violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures. EFF has called on Congress to recognize the unique nature of electronic information stored on personal digital devices and to restore search standards the protect the privacy of Americans in the Information Age. Learn more about our border search work below.
Automated Targeting System (ATS)
In November 2006 the Department of Homeland Security revealed that for years it has assigned "risk assessments" to millions of travelers as they enter or leave the country using the Automated Targeting System. Effectively if you travel internationally ATS creates an instant personal and detailed dossier on you that Customs and Border Protection officers use to decide whether you get to enter the country or will be subject to an enhanced (and potentially invasive) search. Before major media reports picked up the story EFF sounded the alarm and submitted formal comments opposing ATS.
CAPPS II and Secure Flight
CAPPS II was a planned profiling system that would have required airlines to provide personal details about passengers before they boarded their flights. These details would then be combined with government and commercial databases to create a color-coded "score" indicating each person's security risk level. In 2004 American Airlines admitted to providing 1.2 million passenger records to contractors developing prototypes for the program even though the Transportation Security Administration had denied such a transfer for months.
Learn more about CAPPS II
Yet just as soon as CAPPS II seemed dead a new program called Secure Flight was taking shape. TSA claimed that this program would simply match passenger information provided by airlines with existing watch lists. After the TSA was caught lying to the public about the program's testing its launch was postponed. But the TSA now says it will launch the program before the end of the Bush administration.