Politicians Standing in the Way of Data Destruction

There is no better security for data than not collecting it in the first place. And when data is no longer needed, the best security for it is to destroy it.

That’s why I was surprised to see a request from the chairman and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee asking the Transportation Security Administration to preserve data that is scheduled for destruction.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) attended and spoke at the first meeting of the DHS Privacy Committee four years ago. I have regarded him as a champion of privacy since then. But he and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) want biometric data collected for the defunct Registered Traveler program preserved on the chance that Registered Traveler is revived. This is an inappropriate request.

Anyone who submits data to the government should recognize the risk that it will be preserved longer than promised and put to new uses. There were merits to the Clear system within Registered Traveler. I wrote about them in my book and testified about them in 2005. One of the serious demerits is that Registered Traveler created stores of biometric data that politicians are now trying to control.