Oops, They Did It Again
Northwest Data-Sharing Flap Rekindles Privacy Debate
In January, after initial denials, Eagan,
Minn.-based Northwest Airlines said it provided three months of
passenger data to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
for a security research project.
The disclosure the latest in a series of similar cases
involving other airlines sparked distress among corporate travel
managers, according to the Radnor, Pa.-based Business Travel
Coalition. In a January BTC poll of corporate travel and
purchasing managers, nearly half surveyed felt “extremely
concerned” over the news.
“They feel unsure of the safeguards airlines have in place
regarding passenger information,” said BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell.
“They are even less confident about safeguards in place at
government agencies and private contractors with whom some airlines
share passenger data.”
Northwest defended its decision, saying it was the
responsibility of the airline industry to help the government
improve security after 9/11. The airline also emphasized what it
called NASA’s “strict” privacy protections.
“The government and the airlines should be more up front with
what they are dong with information,” said Stuart A. Davidson, an
attorney with Little Rock, Ark.-based Cauley, Geller, Bowman &
Rudman, LLP. The firm recently filed a class-action suit against
Northwest Airlines said it would work to develop a new data
protection protocol before participating in any future government