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Privacy- Security- Efficiency and Economy

It was a typical mad dash to the airport. I arrived with moments to spare ¨C unconcerned about the security lines as I had recently ¡°cleared¡± security simultaneously at more than twenty major airports and venues via the FlyCLEAR program. By signing up with FlyCLEAR- I now have a ¡°Get out of Jail Free¡± card- enabling me to scoot past the security line and go directly to the x-ray machine ¨C a Godsend for those who occasionally cut airport admin time a bit too close for comfort...

All I had to do was give up a bit of my personal privacy ¨C including biometrics information like fingerprint and iris image ¨C to an independent company - a small price to pay for the time saved by this frequent air traveler. Or is it?

Given the difference from that which can be collected over the Internet everyday- by millions all over the world- life definitely has taken on Orwellian overtones. As noted in a November 30- 2008 article in the New York Times- there is ¡°a vast sea of digital information being recorded by an ever thicker web of sensors- from phones to GPS units to the tags in office ID badges that capture our movements and interactions. Coupled with information already gathered from sources like Web surfing and credit cards- the data is the basis for an emerging field called collective intelligence.¡±

Having started my business career in market research- the mind boggles at the applications possible with access to those kinds of data- from improved tailoring and targeting advertising to far more potentially sinister applications to monitor and control behavior.

I willingly gave up a bit of information ¨C some of which already existed elsewhere ¨C in return for time savings. Verified Identity now will have my travel patterns encoded somewhere in its hard drives. But so does my credit card company. These are only disparate bits of information that don¡¯t add up to much¡­unless they are collected and collated.

For example- take the simple knowledge that the CEOs of three major companies are headed from Detroit to Washington DC for public Congressional appearances on the same day; blend in the reasonable guess that they are traveling by corporate jet; then add three tail numbers (thank you- Flight Tracker!)- stir vigorously¡­and bake in the heat of media-generated public outcry.

Before that mixture ¨C and the public outcry ¨C had a chance to cool- both General Motors and Ford announced that they were shuttering their respective flight departments- putting more than 100 aviation professionals on the street and nine business jets up for sale.

The media had a field day roasting the automaker¡¯s routine use of business jets to transport their most senior executives to this critical Congressional appearance. But I doubt that even union members would have wanted to rely on commercial carriers¡¯ performance to make this meeting on time.

And adding insult to injury- the $15 billion bailout plan currently before Congress prohibits business jet operations by the auto makers- even when- as NBAA President Ed Bolen observed: ¡°¡­ it is the sole mode of transportation available to a business- or it is the most prudent and cost-effective solution to a given transportation challenge.¡±

The Internet and camera-equipped cell phones have made instant reporters of the public at large- and that is just part of a larger trend. Today- the Internet and its army of individual sensors ¨C cell phones- PDAs and the like ¨C are feeding a flood of information to desktop computers and servers capable of analyzing and correlating not only trends but also individual data in the blink of an eye. Simply put- our use of GPS for travel and participation in on-line activities and social networks generate masses of predictive behavioral data.

For use by whom in this newly-created surveillance society? Whose data is it- anyway? Well- if the TSA has its way- some of business aviation¡¯s most prized ¨C and secure ¨C data soon will belong to the Government. The TSA has issued an NPRM proposing the creation of the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). This would require operators of any aircraft with an MTOW greater than 12-500 pounds to create a security program subject to biennial third-party audits- have its flight crew undergo FBI criminal history and fingerprint checks- have all passengers checked against the TSA¡¯s watch lists- and hire an in-house security coordinator.

Can they do that? Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff thinks that the Aviation Transportation and Security Act gives the TSA that kind of power- to ¡°develop policies- strategies and plans for dealing with (assessed) threats to transportation security.¡± No one can argue that the LASP doesn¡¯t do just that.

But what threat is he worried about? We know who pilots and who flies on our aircraft. LASP simply compromises the business and personal security of corporate jet travelers everywhere- not to mention the efficiency and operating economics. LASP is nowhere near a ¡°done deal-¡± and an informal coalition of aviation associations is leading the fight against this irrational response to a non-existent threat. And it¡¯s time to add your voice to theirs in Washington- to create a rational collective intelligence that puts a stop to LASP. Do it today- by contacting your Senators and Congressional Representatives.

I travel CLEAR by choice- volunteering certain information to save valuable time. LASP would be forced revelation of private secure data that compromises- rather than enhances- security. But LASP is - well - nothing more than a LAPS in judgment.

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