WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (search) announced on Tuesday that it will order domestic airlines to turn over personal information about passengers to test a system that will compare their names to those on terrorist watch lists (search).
The system, called Secure Flight (search), replaces a previous plan that would have checked passenger names against commercial databases and assigned a risk level to each. That plan, which cost $103 million, was abandoned because of privacy concerns and technological issues.
The airlines will have 30 days to comment on the proposed order, which Congress gave the TSA authority to issue. Air carriers will then have 10 days to turn over data that it gathered in June, called passenger name records.
The amount of data in passenger name records varies by airline, but it typically includes name, flight origin, flight destination, flight time, duration of flight and form of payment. It can also include credit card numbers, address, telephone number and meal requests, which can indicate a person's ethnicity.
Justin Oberman, who heads the office that's developing Secure Flight, said he hopes that the program can be implemented by mid to late spring. He said he expects the airlines to cooperate.
"We are going to work very closely with them," Oberman said.
The TSA will also conduct a limited test in which they'll compare passenger names with information from commercial databases to see if they can be used to detect fraud or identity theft.