Dept. of Transportation to Review How Major U.S. Airlines Handle Passenger’s Private Data — What to Know

The review will include Allegiant Air, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.

<p>Nearmap/Getty Images</p>

Nearmap/Getty Images

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will conduct a privacy review of major airlines in the United States with a focus on how popular carriers handle and store passenger’s personal information.

The review will examine how the ten largest airlines in the U.S. collect, handle, and maintain the personal data of their customers, including procedures relating to the monetization of that passenger data, according to the DOT. The review will also look at how airlines prevent data breaches as well as any complaints or allegations of airline employees or contractors mishandling personal information.

The review will be handled by the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) and will include Allegiant Air, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.

“Airline passengers should have confidence that their personal information is not being shared improperly with third parties or mishandled by employees,” Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This review of airline practices is the beginning of a new initiative by DOT to ensure airlines are being good stewards of sensitive passenger data.”

The DOT said this is just the first of what will become “periodic reviews of airline privacy practices… to ensure that carriers adequately protect consumers’ personal information and follow the law.”

The Department said it will take action if it finds “evidence of problematic practices,” including launching investigations or issuing guidance.

Airlines have not been spared from widespread privacy breaches, like last year when hackers stole personal information for more than 8,000 pilot applicants from American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, according to CBS News. Or just this week when Reuters reported Spanish airline Air Europa confirmed the personal data of its customers may have been breached.

They also haven’t been immune from using that data to cash in, like when The Wall Street Journal reported last year United Airlines was considering using the passenger information it had to sell targeted ads, potentially on its in-flight entertainment system.

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