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JetBlue knows you...
September 18, 2003 12:39 PM   Subscribe

And I was really looking forward to those wide leather seats... Looks like JetBlue sold out, and created a dossier on YOU in the process!!
posted by matty (21 comments total)

 
Wouldn't it make more sense for United or American to be the carrier that submitted the data seeing as they are the only folks to actually have any y'know terrorists amongst their clientelle ?
posted by zeoslap at 12:48 PM on September 18, 2003


Also you get what you pay for :)
posted by zeoslap at 12:48 PM on September 18, 2003


According to the story, JetBlue allowed their data to be used by researchers who "richified" the dataset for the purposes of their study. It's not clear that JetBlue knew this was going to happen, or that what the researchers did was approved by anyone. Still, JetBlue effed up -- every company I've been involved with in the pursuit of data is so cautious about privacy that the data, if it can be gotten at all, is very, very narrowly useful -- and it's amazingly stupid that they released data that could be matched to other sources. If it can be matched, of course it will be -- that's the holy grail to researchers. But, again, it's not JetBlue creating the dossier.
posted by dness2 at 12:55 PM on September 18, 2003


No nosing picking when you think no one is looking with this airlines. Starting to see why folks go nude...imagine the person having the job to view these videos in this day & age, NSFW. Seems the airlines industry(pick on them as seen throughout the US) is breaking grounds at ending our privacy.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:56 PM on September 18, 2003


The Army is investigating the matter, according to spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman, who added that "we take data and privacy regulations seriously and do everything we can to protect people's privacy."

Do people actually believe stuff like this when they say it, or do they just think others haven't learned to decipher PR speak?

What I'm sayin', of course, is that I don't take his statement seriously. Privacy isn't a priority for any organization out there -- profit motive or doing their law enforcement job or whatever are the priority, and until we get a stronger legal framework that respects and enforces individual data rights, privacy will probably be down the priority ladder several rungs.

That said, I give Jet Blue the benefit of the doubt on what/how they thought the data would be used.
posted by weston at 12:57 PM on September 18, 2003


here's one for ya, matty, and check out their links too.

I've wanted to fly them for a long time too, but now would never...there are plenty of other choices.
posted by amberglow at 1:00 PM on September 18, 2003


JetBlue allowed their data to be used by researchers who "richified" the dataset for the purposes of their study.

Trying to recall, if this was the same airlines recently in the news several months back; they released their passenger's credit card info w/o fully realizing it. Mention as the wire report talks about this and it seemed the company was trying to inform it's customers about it too.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:04 PM on September 18, 2003


Thanks, amber!

You know how metafilter has 'Flash Fridays'?? Maybe Metafilter should start 'Conspiracy Theory Thursdays'... it always makes the day go faster!!
posted by matty at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2003


Oh no!!! Now the government knows I connected through Pittsburgh to fly to Boston! OMFG!
posted by xmutex at 1:10 PM on September 18, 2003


Does a good deal of CAPPS II profiling depend on whether or not you are a homeowner?
    "Torch Concept's presentation...shows that upon receiving the data, Torch Concepts purchased matching personal records from Acxiom, one of the country's largest data-aggregation companies. That information included incomes, occupations, vehicle ownership information, number of children and Social Security numbers. The company then used the data to create profiles of groups of travelers, dividing them into three specific groups: young middle-income homeowners, older upper-income homeowners and a group of passengers with anomalous records, which the presentation attributes to "erroneous entry, fraud or mischief." Under the proposed CAPPS II system, passengers like those in Torch's third group would likely be assigned a yellow code by the system's algorithms, resulting in increased screening at the gate. "
posted by Dunvegan at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2003


You have no privacy - get over it."

Doesn't bother me too much...I'll fly JetBlue anyday.
posted by davidmsc at 1:18 PM on September 18, 2003


"The Army is investigating the matter, according to spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman, who added that "we take data and privacy regulations seriously and do everything we can to protect people's privacy."

That quote should be finished with "...after ensuring that our interests and goals are well protected."

We're not people - we're packages of money, information, and votes. A little group theory, a little data mining, and suddenly we're categories of packages.

And the fewer the categories, the easier to spoof the model. What this tells me is that if I plan to commit an act of terrorism, my fake identity better have a good job and a house as part of it, and that my documentation better be consistent. (Thanks for the tip, folks!)

The worst part is that JetBlue will take the heat, while Torch Concepts will walk away - and Torch is really the offender here. Yep, it was dumb for JetBlue to release data to a contractor without firm contractual controls on the usage of that data. I guess they figured that if they had gone through the TSA (who should have also ensured strict control of the use of such data), then it must be legit. Torch Concepts, however, enriched those itineraries with confidential data for the purpose of modelling our behavior, including personal identifiers. Data modeling does not require personal identifiers (SSN, name, etc.) to identify a case; a sequentially-generated identifier typically suffices.

I'd be more concerned that the confidential portions, instead of being used for modelling, are instead retained and used as individual case studies.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2003


Dunvegan: Interesting. Many younger Americans are not homeowners and have led fairly peripatetic lifestyles, would this make them a threat? I also wonder how Capps II might react to people with very few records. For example, I could think of a few people I know who have never had credit, have worked under the table and have never registered any vehicles. Would people who have very little record of existence be suspect?

I am not, however, against video cameras on airplanes. I often use public transportation (read: buses) which are equipped with cameras. The cameras are mainly used to record petty crime rather than terrorism, but I don't feel violated by their presence.

FormlessOne: Great comments.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:39 PM on September 18, 2003


The company then used the data to create profiles of groups of travelers, dividing them into three specific groups: young middle-income homeowners, older upper-income homeowners and a group of passengers with anomalous records, which the presentation attributes to "erroneous entry, fraud or mischief."
Am I to understand then that only renters are terrorists? Has anyone told the Department of Homeland Security about this important "discovery"? Does this mean that anyone who does not have a mortgage on his credit report is automagically routed into the "yellow" (must have further screening) or "red" (this sucker isn't getting onto an airplane hey wouldn't it be fun to arrest him) list? Or perhaps since they have specified "middle income," the TSA will be instructed to direct sodomy^H^H^H^H^search inquiries to upper (ha!) and lower income passengers?

Sheesh, seeing as these people can't see more than one step ahead of themselves, I bet they are lousy at chess. Thank you, Dunvegan, for that most alarmingly stupid quote.
posted by ilsa at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2003


Oh no!!! Now the government knows I connected through Pittsburgh to fly to Boston! OMFG!

Oh no!! Now the government has contracted through a dubious third-party database vendor to build a profile on me that makes me out to be a person of dubious nature, just because I'm not a home-owner! Meanwhile terrorists can fly at will because they know how to game the system while I get stripped searched every time I even get near the airport! OMFG!
posted by bshort at 1:48 PM on September 18, 2003


... Maybe Metafilter should start 'Conspiracy Theory Thursdays'... it always makes the day go faster!!
excellent idea matty, except some people feel that everyday is conspiracy day here already.

This I would characterize as really bad judgement on JetBlue's part, and the fault (and or criminal behavior) is with Torch, who should not be using real people's data for this kind of test.

also, elwood had a good point: JetBlue markets itself to a younger crowd, especially nyc to florida and vegas, so their data wouldn't be good as a sample i don't think, especially compared to a larger, more mainstream carrier that flies to more cities.
posted by amberglow at 1:50 PM on September 18, 2003


I can't imagine why anyone thinks this would work.

Do they really think the "Distance from airport" of the passengers' homes is an indicator of risk? Or that terrorists would make "Biochemical transactions" with the same ID they're using to check in for the flight? And what's with the bump at age 106 on their demographics chart? Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the data.

The "look for patterns in as much data as possible" approach may work for stuff like credit card fraud, where it's a relatively common occurance and the perpetrators are not all that careful. It's considerably less likely to do anything for airport security. I guess they think they have to appear to be doing *something* even if they can't think of anything that would work.
posted by sfenders at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2003


See also: discussion on Kottke's Remaindered Links, in which the following was posted:
Kimberly: Jut in case anyone's interested, here's the response I got back from JetBlue when I wrote them in protest:

Dear Kimberly,

We understand and regret the anxiety you feel concerning the CAPPS II program. Let us assure you, as air travelers ourselves, we share your concerns regarding customer privacy issues.

JetBlue respects and supports the important work of the Transportation Security Administration and, like other US carriers, we are proud to have a close working relationship with them. However, contrary to current reports, we have not entered into an agreement to implement the CAPPS II program with the TSA. Further, no JetBlue customer information has been provided for purposes of testing the CAPPS II program currently under design.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify the speculation surrounding our ongoing work on improved security. We hope, in light of this
information, that you will have a change of heart, and choose to
continue to fly JetBlue Airways.

Sincerely,

April Greer
JetBlue Customer Commitment
As well as further evidence from Don'tSpyOn.Us regarding JetBlue's prior involvement in the program.
posted by me3dia at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2003


I guess they think they have to appear to be doing *something* even if they can't think of anything that would work.

Exactly. I've traveled a bit more than usual lately and the amount of hassle has become incredible. I've been submitted to long lines, having my luggage opened, emptied and searched, having my person searched and even "interviewed." It seemed to me TSA agents were looking at me not because I looked like a threat, but they had to look at somebody in order to create an appearance of security. The whole process of boarding an airplane is like a simulation of security. The TSA creates a hassle at the gates, makes passengers uncomfortable and paranoid, in order to create an appearance of vigilance and out of that the appearance of security. In fact, it's all a scam to make Americans feel at once safe and yet afraid.

Out of the balance of security and fear is born true control.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:14 PM on September 18, 2003


Update: two federal agencies are investigating JetBlue because of this scandal.
posted by me3dia at 9:04 PM on September 22, 2003


and the ACLU has set up a page for jetblue customers to request their JetBlue travel records from the Pentagon and the TSA using the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
posted by amberglow at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2003


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