Thursday, November 30, 2006

Risky Business

From the womb to the tomb we are rated, ranked, labeled and tagged.

The APGAR score from one to ten is a determination of the vivacity of a live birth, based on the size, skin tone, and birth weight. In school, our intelligence quotient is calculated, SAT scores determine which schools we will get into, and as we enter the mainstream of the business of living, Credit Scores tell the tale of our dependability, habits, and worthiness to buy a car, a house, or get a job. Somewhere, a few years from now, a tag will be printed with my name and DOD, securely tied to my toe.

Now the US government has created a scoring formula to assess risk to air travelers. ATS is the acronym for Automated Targeting System, and it ranks you based upon where you’ve been and where you’re going, how you paid for your tickets, your motor vehicle records, trips in the past you took one-way…even the seating and in-flight meal preferences you’ve ordered in the past.

The government is going to keep your ATS score on file for the next 40-years, and unlike your credit score, which you can challenge, you not only cannot change your ATS score, you can’t even see it.

The Department of Homeland Security is defending the ATS as essential in spotting criminals and terrorists before they act. But the government may also decide your ATS score is essential to share with state, local, or even foreign governments for inclusion in hiring decisions or granting security clearances, licenses or contracts. Your ATS score could even be shared with anyone from private contractors to the Courts to Congress.

What if there's a mistake?

This week I did battle with the local County tax appraisal district, which inadvertently dropped my homestead exemption from The Clanton Hacienda this year. A simple error which could have cost me thousands, easily resolved with an e-mail and a fax.
I discovered the error when checking my real estate tax statement on line.

A couple of years ago, I noticed some erroneous reports in my TRW Credit Report file. A quick letter of correction, a reply for verification, and that was solved within 30-days.

I can’t check my ATS score.
You can’t check yours.
What if it’s wrong?

Earlier this year I rented a car one-way to Dallas. That same weekend, I flew one-way back to Houston. Does that make me a more likely risk of being a criminal or a terrorist?

I like to sit next to the window when I fly, preferably as far ahead of the wing as possible. Wonder what that makes my ATS score look like?

What if someone who IS a terrorist decides to buy a plane ticket using a fake name, say B. Clanton…or T. Kennedy?

Senator Ted Kennedy wound up on someone’s do-not-fly-without-frisking list when “T. Kennedy” showed up on a list of aliases used by known terrorists. It took the U.S. Senator three weeks to get his name off of the government’s then-secret black list.

I doubt my efforts to correct such errors would be slim to none…and Slim couldn’t leave town because he never got here.
His name was on the list, too.

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