Republican Senators Question the Security of Collecting Health Information from Airline Passengers

Hispanolistic/istockphoto.com

A group of Republican senators raised concerns over the CDC’s new order requesting select data from airline passengers to track the spread of COVID-19.

A group of Senators Tuesday questioned the security of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continued order to collect personal data from airline passengers in an effort to contract trace COVID-19 cases.

“We write to express concerns about the impact this policy could have on the privacy and data security of the American flying public,” the senators wrote in a letter to White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients. “It is unclear at this time whether the aviation industry is equipped to collect and retain more personal information from passengers than it does today and share it across multiple proprietary systems before responsibly and securely transmitting it to the CDC.”

Several Republican senators on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, including Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., John Thune, R-S.D., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., signed the letter. 

The order, signed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Oct. 25, requires all airlines arriving into the U.S. from a foreign point of departure to collect five passenger data elements. The data, including passenger names, U.S. address, email address, and primary and secondary phone number, builds on a previous rule issued by the CDC in February 2020.

Airline passengers arriving to the U.S. from foreign locations will be required to report this information to the CDC. 

Other eligible data the CDC could request from passengers includes dates of birth, departure and arrival locations, airline and flight numbers, passport numbers, and seat numbers.

Pursuant to the order, all airlines shuttling international flights into the U.S. will be required to submit this data to the CDC within 24 hours following a formal request from the agency. They will also need to retain passenger data for 30 days following the flight’s departure. 

The order also noted that if the requested data is transmitted from the airline to an “established” Department of Homeland Security system, it will be entered in Homeland’s Automated Targeting System, where it can remain for up to 15 years. 

The senators’ letter cites criminal hackers and spies from foreign governments as two primary threats to American data stored on CDC and Homeland Security networks. The senators also ask how long the data will be retained by CDC officials, and if it will be used for purposes aside from contract tracing. 

The CDC wrote in the order that these data “are necessary for identifying and locating passengers and crew members who may have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or another communicable disease of concern.” 

The agency also added that it intends to use the designated data elements solely for public health follow-up purposes with federal and local government agencies. 

Regardless, the senators say that the American public should be thoroughly informed of the required data collection on international flights. 

“The traveling public must be informed of the potential costs this order could impose on their privacy,” the press release stated

Nextgov reached out to the CDC for comment. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.