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The article says that data-mining is being used by Department of Homeland Security agencies like the TSA to keep track of suspected terrorists and criminals. The TSA uses it to take time off of lengthy pat-downs at the nation's airports. The TSA argued for this technique as a way to ensure that airports are truly safe but some privacy advocates are not happy with the technique.
The Times says that the TSA doesn't just conduct routine background and criminal checks on airline ticket holders anymore. They also use these databases to look out for red flags.
"I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly," Identity Project consultant Edward Hasbrouck told the Times. "The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion."
It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.