Back in 2007, Jamie wrote an article outlining how to request getting your hands on your Homeland Security travel file.
Based on the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), anyone is allowed to request that federal agencies hand over the information they keep on file about you. There are of course a couple of exceptions, but your Homeland Security travel dossier is not one of them.
Of course, just outlining how to get this information is not that interesting, actually seeing one of these dossiers is the really good stuff.
Newsweek reporter Sean O’Neill put in his request, and received a large Homeland Security envelope with 20 photocopies containing his dossier.
So, what exactly is in the file? There is of course the usual stuff about where you went, and when you got back. The file listed all his ports of entry, as well as his passport information and various other pieces of data.
The bit that surprised me, was how much information was on file about how he paid for his tickets. Not only does the airline send the government your payment method, they even send the IP address of the computer used to make that purchase as well as any IP address assigned to a computer that was used for other things, like a seat assignment change.
Of course, none of this information is all that sensitive, but it’s obvious that the government is collecting a massive amount of information on every single traveler in the country. On the one hand, it’s a minor invasion of privacy, but on the other hand, if the government puts this information to good use, and masters the art of data mining, they may be able to halt the bad guys before they make it to the airport.
Either way, it’s a very interesting read, and it may prompt you to ask the government for access to your own file, or perhaps it’ll just remind you not to use Al Qaeda computers to pay for your next ticket.