The Canadian Press is reporting that the planned extension of US passenger screening is going ahead next year. Unlike existing rules, which require airlines to provide passenger information for flights headed to the US, the new rules will require them to provide this information even if the flight is only traversing US airspace. (See: The Canadian Press: New U.S. air security rules create turbulence in Canada.)
This raises a whole host of issues, particularly on the privacy front. The names are being scrubbed against the US no-fly list, which is notoriously of dubious quality. It has interfered with the travel plans of infants and a US Senators. It also includes the name of a certain Canadian who has been proven by a public inquiry to not be a terrorist. How many Canadians will be prevented from completing their travels to non-US destinations because they have a name similar to one on the no-fly list? I guarantee that no Canadian airline will change their route to avoid American airspace so that a passenger can be accommodated.
In addition, how is the information going to be used? Will it go into a massive database to be mined for future uses? Will US authorities force aircraft to land to arrest a passenger who is not a terrorist threat, but is otherwise wanted? Will there be a list of Canadians who regularly (and completely lawfully) travel to the embargoed island of Cuba?
This is a real conundrum. One can wave one’s arms in the air and yell about privacy, but the fact remains that the United States has sovereignty over its airspace and can refuse access for whatever reason it wants. It can put conditions on that access. At the end of the day, if you want to travel and your flight takes you through their airspace, this is one of those conditions.