Thursday, August 05, 2004


If you want something from many businesses in America, there is a quid pro quo. Not just the fact you have to fork over money, but you often have to provide information. Some of it is absolutely required by law (e.g., in financial transactions, your social security number may be required), while some of it is required by the other party (e.g., your name, address and ZIP code). If you're looking to buy a car or house, borrow money from a bank or establish a credit line, you have to cough up a lot of information and the bank or creditor will check you out on the credit bureaus and maybe filter your demographic and credit data through scorecards that rate and rank you by the likelihood you'll repay any money borrowed.

So, why is it that these sorts of tools are now being excluded from tools available to the airlines to screen passengers?

If I use a credit card to purchase an airline ticket, the authorization algorithm that approves the purchase checks me out on a number of databases (to see if the card I've used is valid or reported stolen) and compares the purchase to my authorized line amount before the purchase is authorized. It also analyzes the nature of my purchase and compares it to recent purchases as to the type of purchase and the location of the purchase -- a type of computer system known as a neural net compares my "pattern" to patterns known to evidence fraudulent activity and may not authorize the purchase or may block my account for any further purchases within a certain time period.

So, if this happens daily to all of us as we go through life buying a tank of gasoline or a meal at Burger King, why is it all of a sudden a major invasion of my civil rights if an airline compares me and my behavior to those of someone who might be a terrorist?

Blame those who oppose any governmental intervention of any sort.

This is dumb, wrong, and yet no one has the cohones to do anything about it.


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