The bill, S. 1477, the BARR Preservation Act of 2011, would prevent DOT from ending the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, which allows citizens and companies to “opt out” of having their noncommercial aircraft movements tracked by anyone, anywhere in the world, who has an Internet connection, other than the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies.
The BARR program went under attack earlier this year, when the federal government published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had decided to severely curtail the BARR program, which would effectively limit the program’s vital and long-standing privacy protection to only those with a known and specific security threat.
By limiting the privacy protection afforded by the BARR program to only those with a known and specific security threat, the government would actually facilitate unwarranted intrusions into the privacy of aircraft owners and operators for the first time, creating an unprecedented threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to those on board.
In June, Roberts led a bipartisan group of 26 senators in sending a letter to DOT asking Secretary Ray LaHood not to end the BARR program before Congress completes its work on the pending FAA Reauthorization bill, where the BARR program is currently being considered.
“Keeping this program in place has everything to do with our Constitutional right to privacy, and I will continue to work to protect the right to travel and conduct business privately,” said Roberts. “Publishing the movements of general aviation airplanes against citizens’ will flies in the face of the government’s traditional role in protecting private information and I’ll fight against any actions by the federal government that infringe upon the rights of my fellow Americans.”
NEWS UPDATE: As a result of the measure in the fiscal year 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill championed by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and a self-professed outspoken advocate for general aviation, the FAA is withdrawing its June 3, 2011 policy of requiring aircraft owners or operators to submit a Certified Security Concern in order to have their aircraft tail number blocked from view on FAA's website. Instead the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program will continue to be in force and will allow anyone to have their noncommercial aircraft movements blocked from unauthorized, non-government authorities. The rationale was that limiting the privacy protection afforded by the BARR program would have facilitated unwarranted intrusions into the privacy of aircraft owners and operators creating a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to those on board.