Pro Barr support grows

 - May 28, 2011, 9:50 AM

Groups as diverse as the three largest general aviation organizations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are calling on Congress to maintain the current FAA Block Aircraft Registration Request (Barr) program in pending FAA reauthorization legislation.

Leading representatives of America’s business community wrote to Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to urge that the final bill to reauthorize the FAA include language to continue the program as it exists today.

 “Privacy of movement is a fundamental American value,” said the national Chamber, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers. “We believe the federal government should, to the greatest extent possible, protect such information rather than transmit it to anyone in the world with a computer connection.”

In another letter to Mica, NBAA, AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) noted that under the Barr program, the FAA, the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies always retain their ability to track general aviation aircraft movements, but GA operators are provided the ability to “opt out” of having their real-time private movements disseminated beyond the government to unknown third parties throughout the world.

On March 4, a notice was published in the Federal Register that the FAA has tentatively decided to curtail the Barr program–effectively limiting the program’s privacy protection to only those with a known and specific security threat. Broad security concerns would not be covered under this proposal.

NBAA, AOPA and EAA told Mica that significantly limiting the Barr program represents an unwarranted invasion of privacy of aircraft owners and operators, a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to people on board.

The three aviation associations said the congressionally enabled Barr program has worked well for more than a decade by providing individuals and companies a “do not track” option similar to other opt-out programs throughout government.

 “Americans have a reasonable and appropriate expectation of privacy in their personal movements regardless of the mode of transportation involved,” NBAA, AOPA and EAA stated. “It would set a dangerous precedent to establish a policy that movements in any type of vehicle (whether car, train or airplane) can be disseminated by the federal government to unknown third parties against a citizen’s will. We believe the federal government should protect information on personal movements–not facilitate electronic stalking by strangers,” they added.

The business groups pointed out that in addition to raising serious privacy concerns, the government’s plan to limit the Barr program threatens the competitiveness of American businesses.

“Companies in the United States are operating in a fiercely competitive world,” the business organizations wrote to Mica. “Transmitting the private movements of U.S. companies to competitors facilitates corporate espionage and decreases the ability of American companies to compete.”