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What Does DHS Know About You?
October 5, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

What Does DHS Know About You? A lot.

The complete (annotated) report. [PDF]
posted by chunking express (50 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
You're clearly a terrorist.
posted by Slothrup at 7:14 AM on October 5, 2009


As an added bonus, it took DHS 15 months to respond to the FOIA request.
posted by exogenous at 7:14 AM on October 5, 2009


I wonder who DHS's PCI QSA is...
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:22 AM on October 5, 2009


I hate the increasing collection of data. I'm pretty tinfoil-hattish when it comes to those sorts of things, because I worry about the day when Group A combines their databases with Groups B, C, and D, to create a massive file for some non-great reason. So, I really want to be outraged here but I can't find a reason. They are collecting my frequent flyer numbers and the email address for my travel agent? The seat I sit in? So? How could this be a big deal? And it's not really a new development, is it?
posted by Houstonian at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2009


From the comments on the first link, it seems this is a fairly normal PNR Record* that the airlines automatically send to DHS.

*I actually never knew what this was either, so event he fact that DHS gets this is news to me.
posted by scrutiny at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2009


What's the problem exactly? This is information your credit card companies, airlines/travel agencies already have. You can't be worried about government collecting information on you that private companies have already collected and sold to the highest bidder first.

The government also knows how much money you make every year, how many guns you legally own, and what prescriptions you take and medical procedures you've had if you're on Medicare.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2009


That's not DHS, that's just an airline record.

I hope (or at least "hope") that DHS has a heck of a lot more than that.
posted by rokusan at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2009


I expected this to be way more freaky & "how the HELL would they know that??!" - like knowing the names and addresses of people we visit. This is pretty weak sauce stuff IMO; I would expect anybody with the will & the way to be able to get this much data about anyone in less than 10 minutes.

And I use Southwest almost exclusively when I fly domestic, so DHS doesn't know where I sit, nah nah nah!
posted by contessa at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2009


This isn't surprising to me. Sure, it sucks to see it all in one compiled document, but it's not surprising. Now, I'll be scared when they start itemizing credit card purchases because the last thing I want DHS to know is that I bought a copy of Terror Sluts that I like read while wearing my Jihadi Disguise Kit while masturbating in front of the bathroom mirror at the Oaxaca Sheraton. Because then things could get awkward.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bah. When the PreCogs get Congressional mandate these kinds of databases won't seem so intrusive.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2009


my Jihadi Disguise Kit

A shaved face and a crisp dress shirt/slacks with no tie?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 AM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they don't know I help my land lady carry out her garbage, I'm not about to go climbing out any window.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:53 AM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


My cruise ship itinerary! But that's supposed to be private!
posted by koeselitz at 7:53 AM on October 5, 2009


because I worry about the day when Group A combines their databases with Groups B, C, and D, to create a massive file for some non-great reason

Choice Point.

Someday was 12 years ago.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 7:57 AM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


"fairly normal" - "what's the problem" - "weak sauce" - "not surprising"

Ahhhh, but that's exactly what they want you to think!

/off to [unspecified store] in [undisclosed location] to buy thicker tinfoil
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2009


You could travel by other means 'if you want to remain anonymous, but what's the point anymore?'
posted by cashman at 8:01 AM on October 5, 2009


Do they know if I 'dress' to the left or right? No? Just how many frequent-flyer miles I have?

Also, isn't there a point where this whole 'right to privacy' thing gets a little silly - Specifically, the amount of Data-mining that goes on by commercial enterprises is probably more extensive than the DHS (I have no idea if this is true, I mean only to emphasize how profoundly commercial interests already intrude into our lives). This business about when, where, how I fly and etc - I dunno, not so impressive.

Now if they were able to assemble enough information so that they could pull a 'Netflix' on my life and predict what I was likely to do next and intercede before I actually did, well, then that would worry me.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:02 AM on October 5, 2009


Hi, Bondcliff.

DHS (DHS) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

A little information about DHS:
3 followers
1 tweet
following 304,059,724 people

posted by bondcliff at 8:10 AM on October 5, 2009 [20 favorites]


If you are doing nothing bad you have nothing to hide.
posted by Postroad at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2009


If over the last 20 years I paid every auto/home insurance premium on time, and never made a claim, why did the fact that I fought a couple of inaccurate medical bills (and was late to pay) entitle my insurance company to raise my rates and my creditors to raise my interest rates?
posted by HyperBlue at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2009


If you having nothing to hide, you're doing something wrong.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:25 AM on October 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


If you are doing nothing bad you have nothing to hide.

So... define bad. Who gets to make that definition? Is the dime bag of pot in your sock drawer bad? Are those dirty pictures on your hard drive bad? Could that change next week?
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2009


So... define bad. Who gets to make that definition?

Pretty sure that was sarcasm on that old trope.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're doing nothing bad you have nothing to hide

Until they change what "bad" means.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


If it's a dime bag, and it's in your sock drawer, it's probably not specifically very good.
posted by box at 8:29 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope that guy who made all the hoo-haa in his blog post about flying without showing photo ID gets to see this. Man he's going to be rocking on his bed and holding himself.
posted by fightorflight at 8:33 AM on October 5, 2009


I'm in the "not surprised and don't really care" camp on this one.... none of this information is really personal.....
posted by HuronBob at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2009


Why mild stuff like this gets all the attention while the behavior of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union gets a pass is beyond me. Anyone who has ever had to deal with these companies knows how secretive and opaque they are.

An oligopoly of secretive corporations that compile data on your financial habits that is then sold to your bank, your employer, your creditor, your health insurance provider, etc. should really garner more attention. Anyone who's had their credit report blended with another individual, often due to an SSN data entry error, and had to deal with the resulting mess as they are denied credit, employment and a place to live, might not turn such a blind eye to this.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


and... netflix probably knows me better than DHS...
posted by HuronBob at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2009


Postroad: If you are doing nothing bad you have nothing to hide.

Well, goddamn it, it just so happens that the whole point of my cruise was to scout out locations and then make terrorist strikes along various strategic ports in the tropical West Indies. But I won't be able to do that now, will I?

Stupid snooping DHS.
posted by koeselitz at 8:39 AM on October 5, 2009


DHS (DHS) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

Good luck wading through that ocean of information and #gorillapenis tags...

Seriously, the IP address thing was kind of creepy, but the guy did book a stay in Costa Rica. If he were just hopping a jet from SFO to LAX this would be a lot weirder.
posted by Avelwood at 8:41 AM on October 5, 2009


It seems like the issue is that his travel agent gave the DHS way more stuff than they require. Like the hotels. I'm not sure how that is the DHS's fault.
posted by smackfu at 8:48 AM on October 5, 2009


Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... the Department of Homeland Security.

“…because the last thing I want DHS to know is that I bought a copy of Terror Sluts that I like read while wearing my Jihadi Disguise Kit while masturbating in front of the bathroom mirror at the Oaxaca Sheraton. Because then things could get awkward.”

Awkward? You should have been here last week, there was this guy having sex with a chicken.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:57 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't totally surprised by this -- for some weird reason it coincides with the backend tools we build at MeFi to determine who you are (paypal records, other accounts you created, etc) -- it's just a dump of all your travel reservations and all the info about them.

I was shocked to see IP addresses used while placing an online ticket order. I understand how DHS could get copies of itineraries, but I'm kind of floored that someone like say Orbitz.com, hands over their customer database records as well.
posted by mathowie at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2009


but I'm kind of floored that someone like say Orbitz.com, hands over their customer database records as well.

Considering that Orbitz is a consortium owned by major airlines it doesn't seem so shocking that they would roll over for the DHS.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2009


I'll be damned if I give up any information to DHS, I went off the grid years ago. That's why I use cash, only post from anonymous proxies, use stolen cellphones, and travel exclusively in a home built 747.

It's just the kind of thing they'll never think to check.
posted by quin at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan: "That's not DHS, that's just an airline record.

I hope (or at least "hope") that DHS has a heck of a lot more than that.
"

Wow... Stasi much?
posted by symbioid at 9:13 AM on October 5, 2009


If one's unable to whistle, does snarking past the graveyard work just as well?
posted by Forrest Greene at 9:45 AM on October 5, 2009


I'll be damned if I give up any information to DHS, I went off the grid years ago. That's why I use cash, only post from anonymous proxies, use stolen cellphones, and travel exclusively in a home built 747.

It's just the kind of thing they'll never think to check.


Sadly enough, with the exception of a home built 747, this may be true. As tinfoilhat as I am about privacy, if this guy did something wrong, I would probably be one of the first yelling, "Wait, some guy went back and forth from Costa Rica how many times?? I can't even go to Denver without having to strip down to my boxers an get in an argument with the TSA guy about where I bought my shoes!" A small part of me is glad DHS is keeping tabs on international travel.

More sadly, fifteen months to compile the report? I'm guessing this is the kind of data that is gathered, stored, and never looked at. If this guy were up to no good, I'm guessing it would be months before a lead appeared. And that lead would be months old and the guy would be in Indonesia by the time it surfaced.

And, yes, I posted this from an anonymous proxy just for you.
posted by Avelwood at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2009


More sadly, fifteen months to compile the report?

Very slow response to FOIA requests is standard. They work first-in/first-out so if there's a backlog, you're screwed. If you have a "compelling need" for the info, you can get expeditious handling.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on October 5, 2009


If this is "just an airline record," why are passport numbers, hotel and cruise information included?
posted by Western Infidels at 10:31 AM on October 5, 2009


From Bklyn: "Do they know if I 'dress' to the left or right? No? Just how many frequent-flyer miles I have?"

Umm.. I'm assuming you're a dude, and talking about which way you tuck your man-thing.

In that case?

Yes. Yes, they do.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1077800/Airport-admits-strip-search-body-scanners-WILL-people-naked.html
posted by symbioid at 10:52 AM on October 5, 2009


Good link about PNRs. It's kind of weird since they followed this guy's instructions on how to get the records, but clearly this guy would not be surprised by what's in the records at all — he knows they include more than people expect and that's why he's publicizing it.
posted by smackfu at 10:54 AM on October 5, 2009


I found my DHS records to be kind of mundane and boring, actually. I was hoping they'd have something jucy and private, like the number of times I have sex every week. Because I forget.
posted by happyroach at 11:54 AM on October 5, 2009


On the plus side, I was happy to find out that DHS's new classification system can tell me What Class I Am. Now that's putting my government dollars to good work.
posted by happyroach at 11:56 AM on October 5, 2009


Next they are going to tell me that the IRS has my financial records! I demand justice! (No, the concept not the Department, there's no telling what they've got on me!)
posted by Pollomacho at 12:18 PM on October 5, 2009


Pastabagel: "The government also knows [...] how many guns you legally own"

No, they most certainly do not. They might know how many instant background checks have been performed against a particular individual, but there's no central registry or anything. The forms you fill out when you buy a gun in a gun store are retained by the store and only get pulled by law enforcement if they want to trace the path of a particular gun based on its serial number. Plus, there are lots of totally legal gun sales that take place every day directly between individuals, for which there is no paperwork requirement. (Although I always get or make a bill of sale with the serial number anyway.)

The means exists for law enforcement to track a particular gun to its owner by following the trail from one sale to the next, but the gun rights groups have been very successful over the years in preventing the creation of any database that would allow the government to go in the opposite direction — take a particular person's name and return a list of what, if any, guns they own. (At least on the Federal level. Offer not valid in all states, your mileage may vary, etc.)

Actually, the way firearms records are handled is an interesting example of how you can retain information in a way that makes it useful to law enforcement in specific scenarios, but avoids creating a Giant Creepy Database that can be easily misused or datamined in contravention of its original purpose. It accomplishes this by spreading the records out rather than aggregating them in one big silo.

It's kind of a neat trick, actually—making one type of search/query very easy while making another kind very, very hard—that might be generally applicable to other types of records that we want authorities to have some level of access to, but where the public trust isn't unlimited.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:49 PM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Electronic border control
posted by homunculus at 3:43 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good link, homunculus, thanks for that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 PM on October 5, 2009


ttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1077800/Airport-admits-strip-search-body-scanners-WILL-people-naked.html

Though not in my case, I imagine this will only encourage some people to travel more. Or to forget things at the gate so they have/can go through security again. And again. And again. And, oh sweet sweet release, again...

wow, squicked myself out there...
posted by From Bklyn at 1:15 AM on October 6, 2009


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