Automated Targeting System

The Automated Targeting System or ATS is a United States Department of Homeland Security computerized system that, for every person who crosses U.S. borders, scrutinizes a large volume of data related to that person (see below), and then automatically assigns a rating for which the expectation is that it helps gauge whether this person may be placed within a risk group of terrorists or other criminals.

These ratings take many details into account, such as country of origin, how travel to the U.S. was funded, and the visitor's driving record. Other more mundane details also factor in, such as where the person is sitting on the flight and what they ordered for their meal.

The existence of such a system was first discovered by the public in November 2006, when a mention of it appeared in the Federal Register. The system was first implemented in the late 1990s, and was significantly expanded shortly after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.

Rating factors

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, other information that may be collected includes:

*APIS: Advance Passenger Information System
*ATFQ: Automatic Ticketing Fare Quote
*PNR: Passenger Name Record

Exemption from Data Privacy Act

Following the controversial Passenger Name Record agreement signed with the European Union (EU) in 2007, the Bush administration gave exemption for the Department of Homeland Security, for the Arrival and Departure System (ADIS) and for the Automated Target System from the 1974 Privacy Act Statewatch, [ US changes the privacy rules to exemption access to personal data] September 2007 ] .


On December 19, 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) project filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, demanding "immediate answers about an invasive and unprecedented data-mining system deployed on American travelers." [ [ Press Releases: December, 2006 | Electronic Frontier Foundation ] ]


Organizations and security experts have expressed opposition to the system, citing concerns about reliability and undue scrutiny.

The American Civil Liberties Union had similar concerns:

"Never before in American history has our government gotten into the business of creating mass 'risk assessment' ratings of its own citizens," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "That is a radical new step with far-reaching implications – but one that has been taken almost thoughtlessly by expanding a cargo-tracking system to incorporate human beings, and with little public notice, discussion, or debate." [ [ American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU Calls on DHS to Withdraw Plan For Tagging Americans With 40-Year “Risk Assessments” ] ]

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) requested an immediate suspension of the program, stating:

While ATS is undoubtedly raising red flags among privacy advocates and other groups that question the legality and intent of such programs, ACTE is primarily concerned with the economic impact this initiative will have on the business travel community. Delays, missed flights, canceled meetings, and potential arrests will generate staggering costs. In an ACTE survey dating to 2004, 97 percent of respondents stated that programs like this will have a negative impact on travel. This could very will be the impetus for businesses to fully explore alternatives to travel. [ [ ] ]

Bruce Schneier, noted security specialist and writer, wrote about ATS:

There is something un-American about a government program that uses secret criteria to collect dossiers on innocent people and shares that information with various agencies, all without any oversight. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from the former Soviet Union or East Germany or China. And it doesn't make us any safer from terrorism. [ [ Schneier on Security: Automated Targeting System ] ]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed their concerns:

The Automated Targeting System (ATS) will create and assign "risk assessments" to tens of millions of citizens as they enter and leave the country. Individuals will have no way to access information about their "risk assessment" scores or to correct any false information about them. But once the assessment is made, the government will retain the information for 40 years -- as well as make it available to untold numbers of federal, state, local, and foreign agencies in addition to contractors, grantees, consultants, and others. [ [ Press Releases: November, 2006 | Electronic Frontier Foundation ] ]


External links

* [ Associated Press article discussing ATS]
* [ Government documentation on ATS]
* [ Slashdot article discussing ATS]
* [ EPIC - Automated Targeting System]
* [ Brief Forbes article on ATS]
* [ ACTE - North America Traveler Security and Data Privacy publications on ATS]
* [ Automated Targeting System (ATS) - CyberlawWiki]

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