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Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

CDT Letter to Los Angeles World Airports Regarding Compelled Disclosure of Airport Visitor Information

December 16, 2020

Dear Ms. Schwartz:

We hope that you and your colleagues at the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) are safe and well in these challenging times.

We are concerned about LAWA’s decision to adopt the Mobility Data Specification (MDS), and about the interest it has shown in compelling ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft (Transportation Network Companies, or “TNCs”) to disclose information about their customers, including the precise location where the customer got in the vehicle that took the customer to the airport, and the precise destination where the vehicle that picked them up at the airport dropped them off.

The Center for Democracy & Technology is a nonpartisan, nonprofit technology policy advocacy organization dedicated to advancing individual rights in the digital age. A priority for our organization is securing individual privacy from unwarranted government intrusion. We urge you to review the report we recently issued on demands by city governments for the compelled disclosure of mobility data, including under the MDS standard. The compelled disclosure of location information — perhaps in real time — raises significant privacy concerns for individuals who use TNCs to go to and from the airport. Further, the MDS contains extremely revealing and granular data fields including trip ID, trip origin, trip destination and route. Cities currently demand this information from shared micromobility service providers including those who operate dockless scooters and bikes. Dockless scooter riders in Los Angeles have challenged the compelled disclosure of this sensitive information because it violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution and California Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The privacy and constitutional concerns raised by LAWA’s interest in expanded data collection are even more troublesome, because in the airport/TNC context there is a very high likelihood that the precise location information LAWA demands will reveal the exact home addresses of many TNC customers. We strongly discourage you from compelling precise locations and other granular data from TNCs because such compulsion raises significant privacy, security and legal concerns.

We are particularly concerned that LAWA proposes to transition to the MDS with no formal public notice or opportunity for input from the public. We appreciate that the stated purpose for LAWA’s exploration of further compelled data from TNCs includes addressing congestion at the airport. However, the compelled disclosure — whether in real time or from storage — of precise trip origin and destination information outside the airport is not necessary to address airport congestion and cannot be justified given the privacy and security interest described below.

Read the full letter here.