All British travellers who have visited the United States over the past four years have been given a terrorist rating, according to a Daily Telegraph report.
[…] Personally identifiable information is collected to ensure that people and cargo entering or exiting the United States comply with all applicable U.S. laws. Relevant data, including personally identifiable information, is necessary for CBP [Customs and Border Protection] to assess effectively and efficiently the risk and/or threat posed by a person, a conveyance operated by person, or cargo handled by a person, entering or exiting the country. CBPâ€™s ability to identify possible violations of U.S. law or other threats to national security would be critically impaired without access to this data. ATS permits all such information to be applied more efficiently and effectively to support both CBPâ€™s law enforcement mission, while also facilitating legitimate travel, trade, commerce, and immigration.
The Telegraph report says that the US Department of Homeland Security is giving the public until December 29 to comment on the ATS, dubbed the “terror rating scheme,” after details of the programme were leaked.
And it’s not only British travellers – it’s everyone who has legally entered or left the United States during this period, including US citizens.
While many civil liberty groups and privacy advocates are quite alarmed by this programme, I think such surveillance activities by governments are an increasing inevitibility.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have concerns about any government surveillance, whether ATS or any other scheme, especially when you know this:
[…] Travellers are not allowed to see or challenge the [ATS] risk assessments, which the US government intends to keep on file for 40 years. In some cases, the data can be shared with state, local and foreign governments.
The argument will no doubt go that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to be concerrned about.
That’s a bullshit argument.
This is about personal privacy and your right to that privacy if you live in the US, UK or any other country that respects individual freedoms.
The argument might have some validity if you could see the risk assessments that the US government produces, and be able to provide corrections where those assessments are incorrect. But you can’t.