European Commission, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Want Answers About Border Security Program - InformationWeek

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European Commission, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Want Answers About Border Security Program

A European commissioner issued a statement saying that the U.S. Homeland Security department deviated from recent agreements between the US and EU.

A European Union leader wants answers about a U.S. border security program, while Americans sue for more information about the system.

European Commissioner Franco Frattini issued a statement last week saying that information published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about the Automated Targeting System differs from a recent agreement with the European Union that called on the U.S. to be more careful handling European passenger name records.

This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit demanding an urgent and expedited response to a Freedom of Information Act request about the ATS.

ATS assigns risk levels to people entering and leaving the country. In November, DHS announced that the program would launch in December, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff later said the program had been under way for several years.

The department wrote in a public notice that it will keep the data for up to 40 years and the data will be classified, meaning people could not access their scores or correct wrong information. Government entities will share the information.

DHS says it needs the program to protect national security against terrorist attacks. Chertoff told a group of lawyers that the department would be inundated with requests for information and requests for corrections if the contents of the database could be publicized.

DHS published a privacy impact assessment, as required by law. It said that officers will review the information before acting on it, that the database will be password-protected, and that those with access to the data will receive training on protecting it.

The EFF is seeking all Privacy Impact Assessments of the program, all records that describe redress for people who believe the system includes inaccurate information, and all records that discuss potential consequences for travelers.

"The news of this secret program sparked a nationwide uproar," EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel said in a prepared statement. "DHS needs to provide answers, and provide them quickly, to the millions of law-abiding citizens who are worried about this 'risk assessment score that will follow them throughout their lives."

EFF said the government has not announced the consequences for individuals who are labeled a threat. Sobel said that ATS is the type of system that Congress tried to ban in the Privacy Act of 1974.

Several members of Congress have criticized the program and indicated they are likely to hold hearings on it.

Now, Frattini, the European commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, is also critical. On October 19, the E.U. and the U.S. agreed that airline carriers would protect the security of Passenger Name Records (PNR data).

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