Sunday, January 18, 2004

Northwest Airlines shared confidential data with government

Well it turns out that Jetblue isn't the only airline that shared confidential passenger information with the government; Northwest did so as well. You have to wonder why Northwest told the press that they weren't sharing such data precisely as Jetblue was apologizing profusely for doing so; why make a statement at all? The Northwest news is all over the NY Times, CNN, and media around the world.

You also have to wonder why NASA was entrusted with the data; wouldn't this be a job for the NSA or the FBI -- or even DARPA? Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder what else NASA is up to besides sending robots to Mars, contemplating sending humans to Mars, and allowing the Hubble Space Telescope to die.

It's also interesting to note that the Jetblue incident involved a small contractor in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is in Huntsville (my dad worked there as an engineer for many years). Any connection between that contractor and NASA Ames?

NASA and Northwest haven't been very forthcoming about exactly what data they shared. For instance, did Northwest send stored customer credit card numbers to NASA? How many people at Ames saw such personal information?

Northwest Airlines and I go way back. I'm a long-time Northwest customer -- a frequent flyer since 1985. In 1996 I contributed to Internet World magazine's "Best and Worst" issue, and I listed as the "Best Airline Web Site." For years thereafter, Northwest boasted "Voted best airline Web site by Internet World!" Later, after a few missed flights and some bad customer service, I registered -- though I've never bothered to do much with it.

As a customer, this morning I wrote the NWA customer support line asking a few questions: