The Transportation Security Administration is working to widen security screenings of passengers by performing background checks from both government and private platforms before customers even arrive at the airport.
The agency announced on Tuesday that it will soon be able to look at passenger information including car registration and employment information, according to the New York Times. TSA has maintained that its goal is to make the security check process easier for most customers who board planes with intents to travel, not create problems. The new measure will allow the government more wiggle-room to provide and use travelers' information for screenings at domestic airports. These security steps were only previously applied to people looking to enter the United States. Previously, TSA used a background check called Secure Flight, which compared the traveler's name, gender and birthday to terrorist wanted lists.
These screenings have already begun, and are detailed in TSA documents released to demonstrate compliance with federal rules about the use of citizens' data. But it still isn't clear how the agency plans on launching the program, or what information will be looked at specifically.
"I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly," consultant to the Identity Project - a privacy group that expressed trepidation toward the new program - Edward Hasbrouck, told the New York Times. "The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion."
In a statement released shortly after the announcement of the program, the agency defended its security measures.
"Secure Flight has successfully used information provided to airlines to identify and prevent known or suspected terrorists or other individuals on no-fly lists from gaining access to airplanes or secure areas of airports," the TSA wrote in its statement. "Additional risk assessments are used for those higher-risk passengers."
One agency official who spoke to the New York Times on grounds of anonymity said that the crux of the program was to separate low-risk travelers from more dangerous ones that require more rigorous screenings. Such information as travel itinerary, length of stay abroad and type of travel document will be checked out closely, the official told the Times.
The agency intends to prescreen all passengers in some capacity.