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September 16, 2004 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

NEWS
Transportation Dept. dismisses
privacy complaint against Northwest

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - North-
west Airlines Corp. breached no one's
privacy when it shared passenger data
with federal researchers weeks after
the Sept. 11 attacks, the Transportation
Department ruled in dismissing a com-
plaint filed by the Electronic Privacy
Information Center.
The group said it would request a
review of the decision.
The 16-page ruling offered a point-
by-point justification for Northwest's
actions.
Samuel Podberesky, assistant gen-
eral counsel for aviation enforcement,
wrote that Northwest didn't violate its
privacy policy - and even if it had,
the policy was unenforceable because
he said Northwest is required to share
passenger data with the government
upon request.
"Privacy is not, as EPIC would have
it, an absolute personal and fundamen-
tal right ... particularly in the context
of air travel," Podberesky wrote in the
ruling, filed Friday.

In any case, Northwest's disclosure
hurt no one, the DOT said. The only
allegation of injury "is that certain
Northwest customers did not expect
that a small group of
NASA researchers "PrivaCy
would have access -
to their travel plans, EPIC w
and were disappoint- .
ed when they learned it, an ab
they had."
EPIC had pointed persona
out that Northwest fundam
promised not to
"sell" passenger data
to third parties. But -
Podberesky wrote that Assist
"sell" means just that,f
and leaves open the for a
possibility of sharing
data for research, or
with the government.
Eagan-based Northwest wasn't the
only airline to share passenger data.
In September, JetBlue Airways
Corp. admitted it had turned over pas-

senger records to a defense contrac-
tor, later apologizing to its customers.
And in April, AMR Corp., the parent
of American Airlines, disclosed that it

is not, as
ould have
solute
l and
ental right"
Samuel Podberesky
ant general counsel
viation enforcement

authorized a
partner com-
pany to share
passenger
data with the
Transporta-
tion Security
Administra-
tion in June
2002.
But North-
west pas-
sengers were
taken by
surprise by
the airline's
announce-
ment. In

ently in response to questions about the
JetBlue incident.
Podberesky wrote that the state-
ments may have unintentionally
mischaracterized Northwest's past
practice, but that no one had been
harmed because the passengers in
question had flown two years before
the statements were made.
Northwest spokesman Kurt Eben-
hoch said the company didn't have
immediate comment on the ruling.
EPIC officials did not return a call
seeking comment.
Northwest has since said that it won't
share passenger data with the govern-
ment or contractors for aviation secu-
rity projects unless a policy to protect
the data and address privacy concerns
is developed.
In June, a federal judge in Minnesota
dismissed seven class-action lawsuits
brought against Northwest by passen-
gers whose information was provided
to NASA. He said no one had demon-
strated the passengers were harmed.

September 2003, Northwest chief
executive Richard Anderson and a
spokesman had said separately that
Northwest had not shared data, appar-

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