Skift Take

The TSA should be praised for seeking ways to qualify more people for expedited screening. But, is handing over the grunt work to commercial companies accessing your personal information the best alternative?

Do you want to get into the TSA’s PreCheck program, but you aren’t an elite traveler and one of the chosen few? The TSA has a proposition for you: Hand over your personal information to a third-party company, and the TSA could qualify you for expedited screening.

The TSA is soliciting white papers from commercial companies on how best to accomplish this, and it says a prototype of the system to broaden its risk-assessment efforts in this manner should be operational before the end of 2013. Full PDF of that solicitation embedded below.

Under the program, non-governmental organizations would ask travelers to voluntarily provide them with as-yet-to-be determined personal information that they and the TSA could use to determine travelers’ relative security risks.

The information would be transferred to the Secure Flight system, and participating travelers’ risk assessments would be transferred to boarding passes.

Keep Your Shoes On

If the traveler meets the security threshold, “they will be afforded the benefit of expedited screening lanes, may leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts, as well as leave laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids in carry-on bags at airports/airlines that have implemented TSA PreCheck,” the TSA states in its Request For Information proposal to the private companies.

So what kinds of personal information would travelers have to voluntarily give up to the third-party companies — and by extension, the TSA — to qualify for the enhanced risk assessment?

Put the answer in the as yet-to-be-determined category, but the TSA states that it could be “some mix of the following or others…”:

  • Current address
  • Most recent past address
  • Current employer
  • Names used in the past
  • Social Security Number
  • Positive identity verification, including accomplishment through the use of innovative concepts
  • Image(s) of any form of identification that was provided by the enrollee

Some of these categories sound fairly innocuous to all but the most avid privacy purists, but there is ample leeway for proposals to include financial information, including credit scores, for example.

Would someone with a 790 credit score be less of a security risk than someone who had a 650 score or went through a bankruptcy, for instance? Is an American Express Platinum cardholder less of a security risk than an American Express Green Card?

TSA Industry Day and Credit Scores

White papers from proposed vendors aren’t due until April 1, but you get a feel for the possibilities when considering some of the companies attending the TSA’s Industry Day on January 28, when it made a presentation about its request for information.

These companies included credit-score companies Exquifax and Experian, along with about 34 other data, airline, trade organization, and media companies.

The TSA envisions that the third-party companies will obtain far-ranging permissions from travelers who consent to provide their personal information as a way of hopefully qualifying for an expanded PreCheck and expedited screening.

The TSA proposal states:

“TSA anticipates that submitters will obtain written authorization from each applicant to use the applicant’s biographic or biometric data for any purposes beyond those directly related to TSA third-party pre-screening, and must segregate (logically or physically) data collected for purposes of TSA third-party pre-screening from other data that the submitter may maintain on the same individual even where the same data element (name, for example) appears.


The TSA’s PreCheck program currently covers just five airlines at 35 airports, and the TSA is now looking to leverage passengers’ personal information as one means to expand the program.

TSA third party proposal solicitation document, below:

Download (PDF, 135KB)


TSA Industry day presentation to companies on proposal for third party prescreening:

Download (PDF, 111KB)

Industry Day participants, which gives you an idea of the kind of companies that will be bidding for prescreening with your data: 

Download (PDF, 36KB)


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Tags: precheck, tsa

Photo credit: TSA Pre Check at Washington Dulles airport. Elton Lin /

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