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The CDC Asks for Numbers, Names & E-Mails of All Passengers

The CDC Asks for Numbers, Names & E-Mails of All Passengers
Joe Cortez

Health officials are asking airlines to share information about passengers who may be exposed to Coronavirus, but the carriers say they aren’t prepared to share that much data. In a proposed rule published by the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control is asking for flyer data to be turned over in real time – and proposing high fines for non-compliance.

The case for collecting identifying information

Because of the spread of Coronavirus from its epicenter in China, the CDC is paying close attention to aviation’s role in its transmission. Currently, flyers inbound from particular regions are subject to additional screenings to identify potential exposure. But the proposed rule takes data collection to a higher level.

“By this interim final rule, CDC requires airlines to collect, and within 24 hours of an order by the Director of CDC, submit to CDC certain data regarding passengers and crew arriving from foreign countries for the purposes of health education, treatment, prophylaxis, or other appropriate public health interventions, including travel restrictions,” the proposed rule reads.

The CDC is asking airlines to share personally identifiable information of both passengers and crew members on all flights entering the United States, not just those from known affected zones. The information includes name, where those individuals are staying, e-mail address, and primary phone numbers.

The penalties for not sharing the information could be costly. Under the proposal, businesses who don’t share information could face penalties between $100,000 and $500,000, while individuals who break quarantine laws could face jail time.

Airlines express frustration over laws

The airlines are actively pushing back against the proposal. Anonymous sources with knowledge of the meeting and rule proposal told CNN that the airlines exited “in a state of ‘shock and disbelief’” about the request. Those same unnamed sources allege the airlines couldn’t turn over that information quickly.

Despite those inside reports, a public docket comment on the proposed rules suggest airlines could be willing to work with the CDC. In a statement from Airlines for America (A4A), the consortium suggested the CDC work with federal partners, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center, to gather potential transmission information.

Furthermore, A4A indicated carriers would be willing to collect public health locator forms for passengers inbound from China. But the statement doesn’t suggest they would hand over all inbound passenger data.

“Given the above and understanding the urgency, it would be productive to have a call or meeting with CDC, Department of Homeland Security (CBP and TSA), the Department of State and airlines to collectively discuss what data is provided currently, what is shareable and where there are specific or targeted needs to augment the data provided to the USG,” the statement reads. “If specific high-risk routes require additional collection efforts, we can discuss near-term options consistent with privacy requirements and operational implementation issues.”

The public is encourage to comment on the proposed rule at Regulations.gov.

View Comments (8)

8 Comments

  1. bjohnsonmn

    March 11, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    (WASHINGTON) Today President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.

  2. KRSW

    March 11, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    I support the airlines on this. The government already has more than enough information on its citizens and travelers. As we all know, IF this were to pass, it’d never stop.

    The CDC is far from an impartial, independent agency. Despite what many Americans think, there’s plenty of political corruption within.

  3. emcampbe

    March 12, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Can the airlines even legally hand over all of the information the CDC wants, even if they wanted to?

    For example, there are pretty strict data privacy laws in the EU. Something tells me the airlines wouldn’t legally be able to share the information of inbound EU citizens legally. Remember the whole debate on this kind of data sharing when the US was starting to come up with mandatory secure flight data?

  4. gavron

    March 13, 2020 at 7:50 am

    This is another example of using the current situation to erode our rights. It’s like 9/11 x 1000.

    Ehud Gavron
    FAA CPL-H
    Tucson AZ US

  5. NW.BTR.Than.The.Rest

    March 13, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    These seems totally logical. If I were on a flight with someone highly infectious, I’d like to know that I could be contacted so I could make an informed decision about my future care.

  6. glob99

    March 14, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    It is far too late for this. The virus is too widespread in the USA already. Every major city in the USA has CV cases.

  7. Moyerclan

    March 15, 2020 at 10:37 am

    So make it a voluntary thing…. as we fly we can check the box which allows the airline to share our flight details for *just this purpose* alone.

  8. Global321

    March 17, 2020 at 2:27 am

    These are extraordinary times. This request makes a lot of sense. Take everyone’s information. (Whether the airlines can physically do this, I am not sure. I am guessing yes, as most all tickets are purchased online where all this data is requred.)

    If we want this to end quickly, we need to accept some personal freedoms will need to be suspended.

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