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United Airlines Passport Scanning Mobile App: is it safe?

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How much easier international travel is for United Airlines fliers: They can now use their iOS or Android device to scan their passports.

If a customer checks in with United’s mobile application for international flights, they can access the passport-scanning feature. One can check in within 24 hours of departure. Fliers will get an option to confirm their stored passport data or to scan their passport.

If a customer chooses the scan, the app will use the smartphone’s camera to capture passport information. United says this is “similar to a mobile banking deposit.” The flier can retrieve the boarding pass after the passport scan is verified.

United says that their passport scanning feature is very time-saving and gives fliers more control.

Since it’s launch, Ive been asked by multiple outlets in regards to its security and the safety of this application, as it pertains to possible data breaches. The company who created the apps backbone is “Jumio” and by all accounts, they seem top notch.

It’s important consumers never blindly download or use any application without doing some due diligence. This is what I found;

Jumio states: “Jumio is PCI Level 1 compliant and regularly conducts security audits, vulnerability scans and penetration tests to ensure compliance with security best practices and standards. To demonstrate PCI compliance a yearly on-site validation assessment by a QSA is carried out. Jumio carries the security controls established to achieve PCI compliance over to PII data which is of comparable sensitivity and has extended the scope of such controls to cover and protect all systems used to transmit/process/store PII data. Doing so, provides Jumio with a coherent and independently tested set of security policies/processes/controls and enables Jumio’s customers to gain confidence that their data – be it credit card or PII – is handled in a secure manner throughout its lifetime.”

This is great. Now let’s hope my airline, Delta, signs on too!

And again, know what you’re getting into with any app because the Wall Street Journal ran a report in 2010 warning people of app developers’ missing transparency. And yes, we’ve come a long way in 4 years but 101 popular applications for iPhone and Android were examined. It turned out that 56 actually transmitted the mobile device’s unique ID to other companies. This was done without the user’s consent or even awareness.

Forty-seven of the apps transmitted the device’s location. Five of the applications sent gender, age and other personal data to outsiders.

This shows how intent that online-tracking companies are at collecting private information on people. Kind of makes you think of that song, “Every Breath You Take,” by the Police, especially the part that goes, “I’ll be watching you.”

Trackers know what apps the user is downloading, how often they’re used and for how long, the whole works. And there’s been no meaningful action taken to curb this. It’s all about money. (Isn’t everything?)

The more “they” know about the user, the more targeted ads will come the user’s way. If they know you love shoes, ads about shoes will pop up. However, all this “transmitted” personal information can also be used for ID theft and other criminal purposes.

Solution:

Be aware. Don’t just blindly downloads and use an application. Do your research, read the terms and conditions and/or terms of service.

The user must weigh the risks and benefits when downloading the next application. In addition, download only from a reputable app store—after you’ve read user reviews and the app’s privacy policy regarding how much personal information it will get into and share.

Other tips include avoiding conducting smartphone transactions over unsecured Wi-Fi connections and keeping the software current in your smartphone: keeping up to date on its operating system, security software and browser.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

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