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Smartphone app files official TSA complaints in real-time

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 EDT
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A senior citizen gets inspected for weapons at a TSA checkpoint. Photo: Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com.
 
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A smartphone application set to debut next week looks to bring real-time complaint reporting to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

Developed by funding from The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights umbrella group that looks out for people who follow Sikhism, the app asks a series of questions that mirror the complaint reporting document offered on the TSA’s website, then sends the agency an official report, which they claim are always followed-up on.

Amardeep Singh, director of programs for the coalition, told Raw Story that the app should enable people who believe they’ve been profiled to file an official complaint “within minutes” of an incident at a checkpoint.

“The application creates a novel marriage between technology and civil rights activism,” The Sikh Coalition said in an advisory. “It is the first and only such application of its kind, allowing users in communities such as the Sikh, Muslim, Latino, or Black communities to document their experience at the airport.”

“For years The Sikh Coalition and the Sikh community has been complaining about profiling by security at airports,” Singh said. “But official complaints filed with the TSA or Homeland Seucrity are notoriously low from our community. For example, for the third quarter of 2011 the TSA reported to Congress that only 11 people had complained of profiling at airports, and of course the complaints we received [about the TSA] are more like in the hundreds.”

The app, he added, should help correct that problem for Sikhs. But more than just his own community, Singh said he hopes this novel use of technology will prompt the TSA to be more proactive and hold more agents accountable for blatant racial profiling, which they’re supposedly forbidden from engaging in.

“We [used the app to send] test reports through their system, so they’ve been showing a willingness to receive reports or complaints of profiling through this application,” he added. “There is also a know your rights section that provides [information] on rights on travelers — the Sikh community in particular — but there’s a separate section for the rights of everyone that links back directly to the TSA’s own articulation of your rights at an airport checkpoint.”

While the app will likely help smartphone owners, there is still no rapid response solution for individuals with older phones or no mobile computing solutions. Worse yet, recent demographic studies have found that 61 percent of U.S. smartphone users are white, so it’s not yet clear what sort of impact the app might have on how TSA agents behave. To their credit, the TSA says that official complaints can also be filed via email.

The app should be available for download on Monday, April 30. Raw Story will update this article with a direct link once the software becomes available.

Photo: Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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