June 23, 2003
Electronic Information Exchange about travellers to US

In a recent rant about the US Visa Waiver programme adding a requirement for machine-readable passports, I mentioned the Big Brother aspect of facilitating data capture, storage and transfer of passenger data like this.

It turns out that US Customs has a UN/EDIFACT data transfer API standard for this in place already, now becoming compulsory for all carriers flying to the US:

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, legislation was passed making it mandatory for all commercial airlines on international flights to send their passenger and crew manifest data to the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) for advance processing. Prior to the passage of this legislation, submission of advance passenger manifest data was done on a voluntary basis. A standard data format known as UN/EDIFACT – United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Trade – was adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE). It has been modified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) for worldwide use by all scheduled air carriers and Border Control Authorities.
Interesting... I suppose there was nothing else to expect (and I suppose this facilitates the travel arrangements for those of us with "clean" backgrounds).

But:

What if... theoretically... you'd erroneously end up with a red flag in one of those databases? You'd probably be blocked from flying with any carrier to the States; potentially with no explanation and no right of complaint... or? (Sounds like people getting blacklisted erroneously by a credit agency; leading to groundless denials of credit cards, loans etc, despite being innocent)

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Comments

You know about the requirement for a visa waiver that you must never have been arrested, even if you were then subsequently not convicted. See:

http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_web/visa/niv/vwp.htm

Posted by: on June 23, 2003 11:12 PM
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