Government Broke Privacy Laws by Collecting Commercial Data

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Transportation Security Administration violated privacy protections by secretly collecting personal information on at least 250,000 people, congressional investigators said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office sent a letter to Congress saying the collection violated the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from compiling information on people without their knowledge.

The information was collected as the agency tested a program, now called Secure Flight, to conduct computerized checks of airline passengers against terrorist watch lists.

TSA had promised it would only use the limited information about passengers that it had obtained from airlines. Instead, the agency and its contractors compiled files on people using data from commercial brokers and then compared those files with the lists.

The GAO reported that about 100 million records were collected.

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