Homeland 'Security'

We got a notice at work this morning about the US Visa Waiver programme, informing potential travellers to the US that the system is changing. As of 12th January 2009, it’s mandatory to register in a US government online system at least 72 hours before you travel, unless you’re a US citizen or have a Visa.

Into this system, you must provide:

  • Applicant information (Birth date, full name, email, gender and phone number)
  • Passport information (issued date, expiration date, number and country of issue)
  • Travel information (flight and city)
  • Address whilst in the US
  • Health information (diseases, mental illness)

So, in itself, it’s amazing that you’re expected to give up all this personal data to the US government before you even leave your own country. Beyond that, there’s the risk that this system gets hacked, and someone steals all this data about you.

But I’m absolutely staggered by the popup disclaimer you have to accept on entering the site (I’ve added the bold emphasis):

You are about to access a Department of Homeland Security computer system. This computer system and data therein are property of the U.S. Government and provided for official U.S. Government information and use.  There is no expectation of privacy when you use this computer system.  The use of a password or any other security measure does not establish an expectation of privacy. By using this system, you consent to the terms set forth in this notice. You may not process classified national security information on this computer system.  Access to this system is restricted to authorized users only.  Unauthorized access, use, or modification of this system or of data contained herein, or in transit to/from this system, may constitute a violation of section 1030 of title 18 of the U.S. Code and other criminal laws.  Anyone who accesses a Federal computer system without authorization or exceeds access authority, or obtains, alters, damages, destroys, or discloses information, or prevents authorized use of information on the computer system, may be subject to penalties, fines or imprisonment. This computer system and any related equipment is subject to monitoring for administrative oversight, law enforcement, criminal investigative purposes, inquiries into alleged wrongdoing or misuse, and to ensure proper performance of applicable security features and procedures.  DHS may conduct monitoring activities without further notice.

So I have to give up significant amounts of personal data, and have no ‘expectation of privacy’. Makes me think twice about whether going to the US is even worth it.