Saturday, January 22, 2005

Update on weird questions at airport checkin

There has been a lot of buzz about Cory Doctorow's experience checking in for a transatlantic flight with American Airlines. (See PIPEDA and Canadian Privacy Law: Weird personal questions reported on checkin with airline.) The author of Secondary Screeining contacted the airline and actually received a prompt reply, which is posted in his site:

Secondary Screening: Cory Doctorow and Secondary 'Secondary Screening' Classes:

"After reviewing our documentation on Mr. Doctorow's experience in London, it is evident that both our contracted security screener and Mr. Doctorow contributed to what is not a representative example of our security screening process.

Mr. Doctorow exhibited specific behaviors and cues before and during our initial security screening that caused our screener to initiate a secondary screening process. We will not publicize those behaviors because to do so might hamper the effectiveness of the screening process in the future.

That said, our contracted screener veered from standard procedure when she asked for Mr. Doctorow to write the addresses of his destinations in the United States. She did clearly state that once the interview was completed, the address list would be destroyed in front of Mr. Doctorow or that he could have the list to keep. American Airlines absolutely does not register or record that type of personal data.

Although the agent concerned is very promising, this incident clearly showed a lack of experience in the questioning process. The agent will go through additional training and supervision. Through daily briefings, the remainder of the station will benefit from the experience gained from this incident.

American Airlines is entirely serious about the security procedures we undertake to help ensure the safety of our passengers and crews. We expect that our passengers apply the same serious consideration when they encounter our procedures. The vast majority of airline travelers appreciate the increased security and have adapted to a new reality in air travel. That is not, however, an excuse for security measures to be applied unevenly, and to reiterate, we do not keep personal information gathered during screening processes.

We appreciate that Mr. Doctorow called our attention to the mistakes that were made because it helps us rectify the situation going forward. He will also receive a personal response to the letter he sent to our Customer Relations department.

Tim Wagner
American Airlines Spokesman"

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