Government Agency to Probe Information Protection and Privacy Protocols of Leading American Airlines

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced its first industry-wide review of data security and privacy policies across the largest U.S. airlines. Those airlines include Allegiant, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United. Wyden has raised alarms about the sharing and sale of sensitive U.S. consumer data to data brokers — companies that collect and resell people’s personal data, like precise location data, often derived from their phones and computers. In recent months, Wyden has warned that data brokers sell access to Americans’ personal information, which can identify which websites they visit and the places they travel to. In remarks, Wyden said: “Because consumers will often never know that their personal data was misused or sold to shady data brokers, effective privacy regulation cannot depend on consumer complaints to identify corporate abuses.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has taken a groundbreaking step in its efforts to protect passenger data by launching a comprehensive review of the data security and privacy policies of the country’s largest airlines. In a press release on Thursday, the DOT announced that their investigation will focus on whether these airline giants are adequately safeguarding the personal information of their customers and if they are ethically sharing this data for financial gain.

Letters will be sent to top executives of Allegiant, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United airlines, posing inquiries about their data collection and handling methods, targeted advertising practices, and employee training regarding sensitive passenger information.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the importance of this review, stating that it aims to ensure that airlines are responsible stewards of sensitive passenger data. The DOT also mentioned that this action is part of the larger effort by the U.S. government to protect consumer privacy across all sectors of the economy.

Recent actions by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which regulates consumer data privacy matters, further illustrate the importance of this issue. The FTC has taken measures such as banning data brokers and other companies from sharing sensitive location and browsing data, requiring companies to improve their security practices after data breaches, and promising to strengthen the COPPA law that limits the collection of data on children under 13.

In addition to these efforts, the DOT also acknowledged that the FTC is exploring new regulations to address the growing concerns of surveillance and lax data security.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg added that this review will be carried out in collaboration with Senator Ron Wyden, a senior Democrat and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Wyden has been a vocal advocate for consumer privacy, raising concerns about the sale and sharing of personal data by data brokers. He has warned that this type of data can reveal personal information, such as internet browsing history and travel patterns, and can even be purchased by U.S. intelligence agencies without a warrant.

In a statement, Senator Wyden emphasized that effective privacy regulation cannot solely rely on consumer complaints to identify corporate abuses since most individuals are unaware of how their data is being used or sold by these companies.

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Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

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