FlyRights is the first smartphone app to give travelers a direct line to file a complaint when you think you’ve been profiled (or worse) by the TSA during airport security screening.
The free app is an easy way to report suspected instances of additional search and screening abuse by the TSA based on your gender, race or religion.
It’s no secret that the Transportation and Security Administration needs to clean up its act. Under pressure to drive up their productivity numbers and retaining employees that misbehave has created a dangerously closed environment where TSA incidents are practically expected – and all too often go unreported by passengers.
Last November TSA agents in both Honolulu Airport and Newark Liberty International came forward saying that fellow TSA colleagues were targeting Latino passengers . These officers allegedly had nicknames such as “Mexican Hunters” and “Mexicutioners.”
It’s not just religious and ethnic groups that face unfair, and often humiliating, profiling.
Women describe instances of sexualization and some have reported what they feel are “peep show” atmospheres in full-body scan screenings.
This past February, one woman went public with her story after a TSA agent called her “cute” while she was made to go through full-body scans three times – something that is against TSA policies.
She did not file a complaint at the time because she did not know she could.
Upon the app’s release this morning, the first FlyRights report was filed from a woman who felt mistreated over a breast milk incident.
Despite what appears to be serious concerns surfacing about TSA profiling or misconduct, according to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at DHS, only 11 official complaints of improper TSA screening were filed during the first two quarters of 2011.
Today FlyRights was unveiled in conjunction with the TSA – and that’s good news.
While it is a project of the Sikh Coalition whose primary focus is to stop religious profiling, the app includes a range of discrimination categories.
FlyRights guides users through a complete report process for submitting an official complaint, and it sends your report directly to both the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA.
While the app’s simple function is as an email sender, it follows exact incident report questionnaires on the TSA and DHS websites.
Users that believe they have been targeted simply open the app and begin.
FlyRights starts with a checklist of behaviors that qualify as profiling: passengers then describe what kind of discrimination they have experienced by checking boxes next to categories of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality or disability.
Users are prompted to enter the date, time and airport where the incident happened, if there was a body scan or additional screening, and the app features a text field to report the name and badge number of the TSA agent involved.
At the conclusion of filing your report, an in-app Tweet button lets you easily write a tweet saying you just filed a report against the TSA.
The app links to TSA policies to help the user make decisions, as well as helping users describe detailed points about having to remove religious – or other – clothing or items.
However, as the ACLU’s technology and civil liberties policy attorney pointed out to Ars Technica today, it’s never going to be clear-cut until we know exactly what the TSA’s policies are. The TSA reinforced to Ars that the, “TSA does not profile passengers on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion.”
Hopefully FlyRights can be the beginning of a desperately needed course correction at a time when “TSA” has become synonymous with “incompetence” and “abuse” – and gives us passengers a little bit of control back over our bodies and our dignity.