The Fictional Right to Privacy

Going, going, gone?

The significant initial issues dealing with the implementation of an SMS system and still of concern, has to do with the collection, sharing, and management of safety information and protection of and access to private, personally identifiable information, more particularly, proprietary operating data. Information, for example, that has been submitted through FAA programs such as ASAP, the Aviation Safety Action Program, was also initially rejected by some air carriers because of the lack of guarantees for protection of sensitive information.

I can recall the American Airlines, Cali, Colombia accident and the litigation it spawned. The airline tried unsuccessfully to prevent the release of proprietary safety data related to that crash.

The whole purpose of voluntary safety data collection must be based on the absolute protection of the data from use during trials or otherwise made public. Where it becomes apparent that ASAP and SMS data may be available to the public then there will be no participation in these programs. So far, that protection has not been shown.

A second objection has been cost. Some have pointed out that the whole program is designed to make money for the people who prepare program manuals and audit systems.

Since overseas flying activities will require a SMS in place before you can operate overseas, there is a whole homegrown industry now established for the creation of and implementation of the system. Third-party participants are clearly in business to make money on the program, but the bottom line is that somebody has to do the work. Some have even suggested that a SMS should be only a voluntary program. Why not?

Bilateral maintenance sharing agreements

On top of this is the fact that we have a “sharing” agreement with EASA in the works already. The Bilateral Accord (BASA) was signed in 2008 and already expands the relationship of the FAA and EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency). It requires cooperation on such matters as aviation safety and other areas of operations and includes the exchange of what may be confidential safety information with EASA and whoever else in Europe has access. What has happened to that program?

Make no mistake, there are some serious implications in this arrangement that could be another step toward having ICAO and EASA, being the single management source for aviation safety matters.

We initially refused the BASA agreement on the issue of inspection of foreign repair stations. And, so far as I can see, we have not been successful in demanding that or drug and alcohol testing of personnel at these facilities.

Accident investigation is another area of serious concern. In France, and other EU countries, for example, every accident can be considered a crime and a trial commenced on that issue. The Concorde crash trial and conviction of four people including three U.S. mechanics, is an example. The conflict between accident investigation for cause and judicial proceedings is not resolved and can present huge obstacles to cooperation between the parties to these agreements.

Other privacy issues

The European Union, to its credit, has just instituted a law to prevent “cookies” from being installed in citizens’ computer programs. The EU’s new Internet privacy law came into effect on May 26, 2011. Whether or not it will be enforced remains to be seen.

As we all know by now, many people collect information about you when you visit their web sites. They use something called “cookies,” which allow them to collect all sorts of information. The EU makes this illegal without your permission. Online privacy has become a growing concern for many consumers and business interests. The recent example of several high profile hacking incidents are making people increasingly concerned about what type of information should be collected and stored about them.

In California, however, an online privacy law recently failed to pass the legislature. This law was designed to limit the data visible on social networking sites. Aggressive lobbying by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other interested firms argued against this law. Some have suggested that we need a federal law like the EU just put into effect. We’ll see …

Our own IRS also is coming under attack for aggressively seeking to collect more taxes by ordering small businesses to turn over exact copies of their electronic records in their business software programs. Many fear that customer lists, personnel data, confidential client information, and other unrelated information will trigger other fishing expeditions beyond the scope of IRS interests. Besides endangering customer privacy, this could drive customers away.

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