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DOT Reviewing Passenger Data Practices

The DOT is looking to ensure passenger data is adequately protected.

Terminal D at DFW Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has embarked on a review of data collection and protection policies of the 10 largest carriers in the U.S. The aim of the review is to better understand how airlines are handling personal passenger data, according to the agency.

This announcement follows the Biden’s Administration efforts to protect the personal data of all Americans.  Therefore, the DOT wants to ensure that personal passenger data is properly protected and not being unethically sold to third parties.

From these findings, the DOT says it will be able to implement best practices and more effective regulations for data protection.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated, “Airline passengers should have confidence that their personal information is not being shared improperly with third parties or mishandled by employees.”

Secretary Buttigieg further expressed that “This review of airline practices is the beginning of a new initiative by DOT to ensure airlines are being good stewards of sensitive passenger data.”

What Will the DOT Gather?

The DOT says it will gather intel based on three categories:

  1. Policies and procedures relating to the collection, maintenance, handling, and use of airlines’ personal information, including policies and procedures relating to monetization of passenger data, targeted advertising, and prevention of data breaches.
  2. Complaints alleging that airline employees or contractors mishandled personal information or otherwise alleging that an airline violated an individual’s privacy.
  3. Information regarding privacy training, including materials used for training, types of personnel that receive the training, and the frequency of the training.

The transport agency has also requested responses from the 10 largest carriers in the nation. These airlines include:

  • Allegiant
  • Alaska
  • American
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • United

Furthermore, the department in a statement said, “As DOT finds evidence of problematic practices, the Department will take action, which could mean investigations, enforcement actions, guidance, or rulemaking.”

When a passenger books a flight on these airlines, they share information such as names, home addresses, and birthdates. During in-flight services, the carrier collects data on seating preferences, meal preferences, and inflight entertainment choices. This information can potentially be shared with third parties to enhance their market reach.

Similarly, in 2018, the European Union (EU) underwent new regulations on airlines to protect passenger information. 

Tarik Dixon
Latest posts by Tarik Dixon (see all)

Author

  • Tarik Dixon

    Based in Kingston, Jamaica, Tarik grew up being fascinated with the daily operations of airports and airlines. Overtime his interest turned into the economics surrounding the aviation industry and how the industry facilitates growth in local sectors and promotes connectivity with regional neighbors.

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