Travel Agent

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection (“ACACP”) held a meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss data privacy and security issues relevant to the aviation industry.  The meeting featured presentations by representatives of the airlines, travel agents, online travel agents, global distribution systems (“GDS”), and consumers. According to ACACP committee member Charles Leocha, this week’s meeting marked the first time that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Department of Transportation (“DOT”), and the air travel industry had come together to discuss consumer privacy — a discussion he said was “long long overdue.” In his opening remarks, Leocha characterized travel data as “some of the most sensitive and intimately revealing” consumer data, and expressed optimism that the meeting would be “step one” towards establishing a DOT privacy rule or guidance on best practices.

At the meeting, Robert Gorman, a Senior Attorney from the DOT presented on the Department’s authority to enforce privacy rules and regulate unfair and deceptive trade practices by air carriers.  He suggested that the Department would likely determine that a privacy violation rose to the level of an unfair or deceptive trade practice where a company:

  • Violated the terms of its consumer-facing privacy policy;
  • Disclosed personal information in a manner that violates public policy, is immoral, or causes substantial consumer injury not offset by any countervailing benefit;
  • Violated a rule where such violations are considered unfair or deceptive trade practices; or
  • Violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which the DOT has the authority to enforce against air carriers.

Gorman reported that he and his colleagues were not aware of receiving any complaints against air carriers for violating consumer privacy, but stated that the DOT is considering whether to issue guidance on complying with COPPA.Continue Reading Department of Transportation Meeting Focuses on Data Privacy in Air Travel