back to article What US Homeland Security collects about you

Any time a person crosses the US border, the Department of Homeland Security assigns travelers with a "risk assessment" score to divine their likelihood of any involvement with a terrorist cell or criminal activity. That score is calculated by feeding a large volume of personal information into an automated system (rather …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Rubber Glove

    Philosecurity... Securityphiles... Rubber gloves.

    I knew it was more than terrorism involved here.

    Image hopefully not related

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe your anus should be subjected... a cavity search at the airport unless you can identify the terrorists walking around? Oh, you'd prefer they board with you. My bad.

  3. Robert Hill

    No surprises there really...

    I would expect that the records would only come from travel related companies, NOT the credit card companies - to get general credit card statements for anyone who MAY have travelled would be a horrendous civil rights breach, whereas obtaining travel records from travel companies (travel agents, brokers, airlines, etc.) is very obviously related to a real trip.

    As for the total card number being needed, again, not a surprise. That helps them identify the use of stolen cards for travel, which would obviously be a huge red flag, or also the use of one card to book tickets for several trips at once for different people, also a huge red flag. I am frankly surprised the article author couldn't see this.

    Other things that I would EXPECT them to collect but are not listed are the time of check-in for the flights, special meal requests, and longer term information such as number of visits to a given destination for a given traveller (probably stored as derived data somewhere else, rather than on a per trip basis).

    Now, the predictive reliability of all this information is of course another matter, and I doubt that any FOI request will get access to the testing results and verification methods of the data analytics that is the end product of all this data. I just hope for all of our sake's that it is fairly good, and not simply handed to the lowest cost bidder...

  4. Jeremy 2
    Black Helicopters

    Travel preferences

    > Window seat eh? Very suspicious

    So if you order a Halal meal the afore mentioned colonic exploratory expedition suddenly becomes more likely? I wonder if my El Reg comment history gets assimilated by Uncie Sam and if I should shut up, lest the helicopters start circling.

  5. Forename Surname

    ouch !!!

    Would be nice if you could sue them if your credit card got cloned... Like there is much chance of that happening lol

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When will they realize...

    Would hate to see these sorts of records fall into the wrong hands.

    Please spend our money on actually fighting terrorists. Not spying on EVERYONE.

    I wonder what kind of information they hold on foreigners? I wonder if a foreigner is allowed to use the freedom of information act to request information? I somehow doubt it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Show me the terrorists

    I can save us all a ton of money if the "experts" on here will just follow me to the airport and point out all of the terrorists in the terminal so they can be arrested. Your help is much appreciated.

  8. jake Silver badge

    Show me the fucking terrorists, already.

    Jesus H. Christ on a minibike ... Has the entire world gone mad?

    Terrorists do NOT exist!

    Deluded religious/political xenophobes DO exist, yes, but as is usually the case, they are horribly ignorant and usually underfunded (the Bush/Blair administration and the IRA being rare exceptions).

    The concept of "terrorism" is actually a weapon of mass distrAction.

    It all started when Western governments started dropping funding for schools ... Keep the voters as stupid and ignorant as possible in order to pocket as much loot in a short period of time as they possibly can.

    Dark Ages MkII, here we come ...

  9. AshC
    Thumb Up

    @When will they realize...

    Actually if you follow the article links and read further you can...

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Your CC details are vital tools

    In giving phishers, cloners and fraudsters in general a higher standard of living.

  11. Dennis O'Neill

    Glad I'm not travelling to the States

    Mohamad Attas, the guy credited with being the leader of the 9/11 attacks, was arrested in the US three times in the year before the attacks for driving offences, yet even when it was flagged up to higher authorities by the arresting officers that he had outstayed his visa by many months, he still wasn't deported.

    Is it just me or does anyone else hear the resounding thud of stable doors being closed?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Intelligent design

    If the US authorities have designed the ATS like they did with the no-fly list (only keeping name and birthdate so duplicates quite likely for common names) then no wonder there are so many loop holes in the system. Change hotels after you land - not picked up, fly private jet - not picked up. What's to say that the system doesn't pick up entry via border entry points. What about private boats? And then there is the whole thing of so much data that it's unusable because valid information can't be gleaned from it. Typically they've gone for the brute force method rather than the intelligent design - but then is any major government security system designed intelligently nowadays. Most of the time they seem to build it around make a show rather than actually implementing security - witness no liquids, no nail clippers type rules when a pen can be very deadly when thrust into a jugular.

  13. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Show me the terrorists

    "I can save us all a ton of money if the "experts" on here will just follow me to the airport and point out all of the terrorists in the terminal so they can be arrested."

    You've missed the point. The information collected here is no use for identifying terrorists. Therefore you could save the ton of money by just not collecting it. I think we can all agree that simply "pointing out" the terrorists isn't possible. However, the DHS's actions fall squarely into the category of "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done.".

    "Your help is much appreciated."

    I doubt it. I expect you are annoyed that I've pointed the glaring logical flaw behind your razor sharp wit.

  14. andy 45

    @AC re: Show me the terrorists

    They're the ones with bombs in their rucksacks you moron....

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Simple Solution

    Don't travel to the US.

    I've conducted business meetings in Canada (Toronto) - my argument being if I'm willing to travel from the UK to North America, at least they can fly to the East Coast to meet me. Toronto is more difficult than New York but it's a fair compromise.

    Of course, I was a not selling - it's more difficult if you are selling or providing services.

  16. Oliver Mayes

    Experiences of Merka

    Flew into LAX and spent a full three and a half hours queuing up to be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed by three separate Mexicans. Amusingly, the friend I was travelling with misheard the question "What do you do for a living?" and answered "Uh, yes?" but still got waved through.

    During that time we were subjected to 6 sniffer dog searches which uncovered not one, not two, but three apples being illegally brought into the country by my fellow passengers (Two of which were leftovers from the in flight meal). I now have a mental image of the security staff piling up all of the confiscated fruit out back somewhere and destroying it in a controlled explosion.

    When I came to leave again i sat in the terminal waiting and had one of their heavily armed stormtroopers come up behind me and look over my shoulder at what I was reading, a Readers Digest, not exactly a threat to democracy. I also bought two tins of Jelly Belly jelly beans from the airport and had to open the shrink wrap and show the contents of the tins to the staff as they claimed the tins were 'Impervious to X-Rays'.

  17. Stef 2

    Flight preferences

    I suspect Halal meal may flag up more of a warning than window seat.

  18. Number6

    Confounding the system

    They must really hate those of us who book the flights via an airline's website and a hotel for the first night. Think of all the information they then have to go and collect from their internet snooping for booking cars and other hotels to get the whole picture. I even made it hard for them this time around because the airline wanted to charge me more for using a credit card, so I didn't. that might make it harder to match my flight against subsequent bookings - perhaps TSA should offer to pay the credit card booking fees to encourage us to use them?

    Do I get special treatment for managing to get in once last year without having my fingerprints taken (the guy at the booth never even asked, just sent me to the special room in the corner, who stamped my passport and didn't ask for prints either)? Did they even notice?

  19. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    @ horrendous civil rights breach ... and watching our movements

    @Robert Hill: "to get general credit card statements for anyone who MAY have travelled would be a horrendous civil rights breach"

    While they say they care about civil rights, their actions prove they don't actually care because they also do the same privacy breaches with the UK Money Laundering laws, that allow them and banks to automatically watch every transaction on everyone's bank accounts. The software is set-up to detect abnormal transactions (in and out of accounts) and to then flag any abnormal transactions for further attention. They do it because ultimately they are determined to find every way they can to make you pay taxes on everything they want you to pay taxes on and and so the whole system is geared to achieving this goal in every way they can. . (For example, making sure people pay their Capital Gains Tax etc..). (Any other form of transaction they can't monitor is potentially criminal in their minds)

    So travel movements are the same thing. (How long before they can detect abnormal travel moments?). These days it seems they want to monitor almost everything we do. So we don't actually have privacy from the people in power over us because ultimately they want to be in power over us and so how can they truly be in power over us if they don't know where and what we are doing and to then prevent us doing anything they don't want us doing. So they watch us with speed cameras and CCTV cameras and ever more rules and checks etc.. That's ultimately the whole point of being in power and having the power to control others so it requires them to have some means to watch over what we do and to then be able to enforce stopping us doing what they don't want us to do. But its a fine line as its needed to enforce laws to stop criminals causing harm to others, but when its taken to far it becomes increasingly repressive. The problem is everyone has a different view as to where that fine line should be drawn.

    But since 9/11 however that line seems to have been thrown away by the people in power and they keep showing they are grabbing as much information on us all as fast as they can. Its very worrying what they intend to use all this ever growing data to achieve? ... how much control over us all do they need?. Previous generations of politicians ruled just fine most of the time with far less control over their people. So any talk of civil rights these days seems hollow.

    Yet more proof they don't actually care about civil rights is the whole idea that, if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, so conversely anyone attempting to hide from them is assumed by them to have done something wrong. So their own actions show they don't really want us to have privacy. It seems these days everywhere we have privacy they are looking to find ever more ways to undermine it ultimately to enforce ever more control over us and I think one of the biggest new privacy battle grounds appears to be the Internet and they keep showing they won't stop until they have found a way to win control over that as well. As for privacy of our travel movements, I sadly think that is becoming a lost cause as there is no way to protect our travel privacy from them. If that isn't Big Brother I don't know what is and its getting ever worse. How long before they can spy continuously on our every movement.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    red flags - red herrings more like

    "the use of one card to book tickets for several trips at once for different people, also a huge red flag." What, so its a huge red flag when I am organized about booking our family holidays, or if my PA uses the corporate credit card to book travel for several of my team to different customer sites?

    Wow. In future I'll book all our travel with multiple different credit cards, on different days, from different internet cafes. Or something. Or Not.

    And why would you expect the Feds to collect special meal requests? Are coeliacs and dairy-allergics reknowned hijackers? And do you think terrorists would be dumb enough to book a specific meal?

    Maybe it'd be easier to arrest everyone with certain skin coloration and/or dress sense? is this your hedgehog sir?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    No liquids?

    I'm just about certain that the UK is alone within Europe in making people throw away drinks etc before going through security. Frankly I think this has more to do with then being a "captive consumer" once you're in the departure lounge rather than "terrorism". There's certainly no problem taking liquids through and indeed onto the plane (hand luggage) in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland or Greece. Then again they're not currently invading other people's countries for spurious reasons are they?

    I for one don't believe the bullshit the UK govt spouts on "security" and I guess the USA is probably worse. It usually is. I don't intend ever going there again so as far as I'm concerned let them do whatever they want to people foolish enough to visit.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Dear Concerned UK Citizens

    Please be assured that we only use your data for the express purposes of protecting you and your loved ones. We do not, nor have we, nor will we, use this for any purpose aside from your protection.

    We will collect your information under the following conditions:

    * every time you do anything

    * every time you say anything

    * every time you go anywhere

    The information we collect consists of only the bare necessary items, including, but not limited to:

    * all your personal information (including biometrics)

    * all your financial information

    * all your social information

    * all your contact information

    * all your personal history.

    We may use and analyse your information for the following purposes and in the following manner:


    The following departments and DHS Staff will have access to your information for the purposes of your safety:


    Remember - this is for your safety. We don't take pleasure in snooping into every aspect of your lives. Nor do we have a sneaky wank when going through your wife's used underwear whilst you're at work. We do it because we love you.

    Kind Regards,

    Uncle Sam

    PS: don't think that avoiding the US will get you out of this. Your government's bending over and taking it without any lube and will provide us with everything we ask for. And not coming to the US will make us even more suspicious of you, so stay where you are, the jackbooted thugs are on their way and will be with you shortly.

  23. Blitz
    Black Helicopters

    American/British Citizen

    As a dual citizen I've been to some places that Americans aren't supposed to go to and have done so on my British Passport.

    I'm going to use the FoI and request my report and see if it contains travel information that the US, in theory, shouldn't know about.

    I'm normally all about the rule of law and state on The Reg' 'if you've done nothing wrong...' etc - however, I've always been against the US keeping any kind of 'score' on it's own citizens. God forbid I have a conversation with any of Muslim friends and suddenly find myself on the static end of a cattle prod.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Too late

    "How long before they can spy continuously on our every movement."

    Too late.

    Who has one the biggest databases in the country? TESCO, anonymous it may be, but it contains billions of transactions and so much data on the typical spending habits of your typical UK citizen. One reason I refuse to have any loyalty cards, bad enough you have my card number and transaction history, you don't need to patronise me by giving me a penny for every £10,000 I spend in your shop!

    Highest number of CCTV per capita? Yep, it's Comrade Broon's Stazi at work.

    You s**t, fart, eat, breath at any moment, anywhere other than a small rock just north of Shetland, it's most likely been recorded somewhere, for some purpose, more often than not to work what targetted advertising to send you.

    Privacy is nice little word in a dictionary, it no longer exists and you can keep fighting but you have already lost. All in the name of "Save the Children", "Stop the Non-Existent Terrorist Bogeymen", "We need your data, to improve your life with our targetted ads."

  25. Andus McCoatover

    SSSS, anyone?

    Went from Dallas (DFW) via JFK --> Frankfurt --> Helsinki -->Oulu.

    So, four tickets.

    Top ticket was stamped "SSSS" - something to do with needing an extra full check at the departure airport. Mercifully, they weren't the Bottom Inspectors.

    Happened before, so I knew what to do.

    I simply swapped the top ticket with "SSSS" on it (DFW-->JFK) from the top of the stack to the bottom. Immaculately dressed representative of US Homeland Security........sorry, had to pick myself up off the floor when I said that phrase (now I need dry trousers) ... looked at the top of my ticket pile (JFK-FRA), and waved me through. Should've given him a handful of peanuts for a tip. Could've doubled his salary.

    Myst-all-chucking-frighty. It would be funny if it wasn't.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Show me the tourists....

    Well here's a clue. Serve only bacon sarnies and alcoholic drinks on the flights. Those who politely refuse ...Zap 'em! They are either terrorists, religious wackjobs, teetotallers or veggies and frankly there is probably not much difference between them!

    Only boozed up bacon munching skirt chasing good ole boys need to come to the US.

    It's a service I tells ya!

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Denial isn't a river in Egypt it's an illness

    The innocent people killed by terrorists might take offense at the ignorance spewed as knowledge on the subject of anti-terrorism. If you or your family members die from terrorism, then you might get a clearer understanding of reality. We live in a world full of nutcakes.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    re:Intelligent Design?

    Keep God out of this, he already has his own tracking system!

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @Mosh Jahan

    Seriously, you think you are being kept safe? Safety does not exist in giving up your freedom (or your privacy, or all your database...). Anti-terriorism is about as nebulous an idea and goal as you could possibly hope to look for and find....anywhere.

    p.s. that's NOT a rubber glove and that's NOT a hand.

  31. jake Silver badge

    AC 13:38

    "The innocent people killed by terrorists might take offense at the ignorance spewed as knowledge on the subject of anti-terrorism."

    I respectfully suggest that the innocents killed would PROBABLY be more pissed off at all the politicians (and hangers-on) demonizing other races/cultures/religions, leading to the current wasteful conflicts that only further inflame the differences between the various races/cultures/religions. Surely the trillions of [insert western currency here] spent in Iraq & Afghanistan could be better spent on medicine, education, and standard of living world-wide? Ever hear the saying "you can catch more flies with honey ..."?

    "If you or your family members die from terrorism, then you might get a clearer understanding of reality."

    Let's discuss that particular issue if it ever happens, m'kay? I mean, seriously, what are the chances of me or a family member having that particular issue? I'll bet the odds of getting hit by lightning are greater, probably by a couple orders of magnitude.

    During the meanwhile, are you also proselytizing over the allowed bad standards when it comes to issuing drivers licenses? More people are killed by bad driving every DAY, world wide, than are killed by so-called "terrorists" in an average YEAR. Don't ask me about the millions who die of various tropical diseases and parasites yearly. Nor the Western diseases (diabetes, asthma, obesity, et ali).

    "We live in a world full of nutcakes."

    True, and many of them are running your nation and/or religion, pulling the wool over your eyes. Will you ever open your eyes? Or do you prefer to live in apathetic ignorance?

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. jake Silver badge

    @Mosh Jahan

    "I bet the 3,000 or so that died on 9/11 thought it would never happen to them."

    Sample of one. Statistically meaningless. I feel for the families of the dead, but it's hardly enough to make me shake in my boots. (Disclaimer: All the folks I know from Sun Microsystems, on the 25th floor of Building 2, got out safely. Would I feel differently otherwise? I don't know for sure, but probably not.)


    Politically loaded scary word. Stop using it, it makes you blind to reality. Instead, call them deluded religious/political xenophobes, and try to remember that it applies to both sides of any given conflict.

    "of the type we face today has no limits."

    Of course it has limits, silly! It's not like they could drop the moon on Wall Street ...

    "The terrorists would be using nukes if our security services were not doing the great job they are doing."

    Assumes abilities on both sides that are not in evidence. Post proof or retract.

  35. jake Silver badge

    @Mosh Jahan

    "You're not living in the real world. Take away all the security protocols that ciritical national infrastructure operates under and see how many more skyscrapers come tumbling down."

    Do you really think that Oklahoma can't happen today? One of the perils of living in a free society is that occasionally a nutter slips thru' the cracks ... in Oklahoma's case, it was a good Roman Catholic, Republican, US Army decorated, Gulf War veteran perpetrator. Something to think about.

    I don't like using it too often, lest the message become diluted, but seeing as nobody has used it in this thread yet ... It was Ben Franklin who said "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like