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TSA says it tested tracking Bluetooth signals


The Transportation Security Administration recently experimented with technology to track airline passengers’ Bluetooth signals, according to documents obtained by Cox Media Group’s Washington Bureau.

Sensors in the terminal would hone in on signals from Bluetooth hands-free cell phone earpieces in an effort to predict wait times at security checkpoints.

According to an internal TSA document, it worked by “…detecting signals broadcast to the public by individual devices and calculating a wait time as the signal passes sensors positioned to cover the area in which passengers may wait in line.”

The TSA scrapped the idea — without explanation — after testing it at airports in Las Vegas and Indianapolis.

“We’re not comfortable with the monitoring of Bluetooths,” said Brandon Mascata, spokesman for the Association of Airline Passenger Rights. “It’s consistent with a far-reaching invasion of privacy.”

The information was encrypted and destroyed within two hours, according to the TSA.

Early Wednesday evening, the agency said it did post signs to inform passengers the technology was in use.

According to the TSA, the signs said, “TSA is testing the use of Bluetooth technology in this area to calculate wait times. If you do not wish to participate, you can turn off your Bluetooth device or disable the Bluetooth feature. TSA will encrypt Bluetooth addresses and delete all data with in hours. Your safety is our priority.”

A TSA spokesman did not immediately answer whether those signs were posted in Las Vegas and Indianapolis during the 2012 pilot program.


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