The issue comes in when tech-savvy smartphone users use their barcode reading applications to scan their barcode and see if they have been selected for the less rigorous check, as the date is not encrypted. This means a potential smuggling or terrorist threat can be created, as fliers can tell 24 hours in advance whether they have been selected for PreCheck.
When entered into an online decoder anyone can access their passenger name record, seat assignment, flight number, and finally the last digit of the code which will show if they have been selected for PreCheck – a code ending in 1 means they will undergo the full security check, a code ending in 3 means they won’t – and it seems thousands of people have been able to access this information to date.
The US Transportation Security Administration declined to comment on the BBC’s request for a statement, although they have previously stated:
“TSA does not comment on specifics of the screening process, which contain measures both seen and unseen. In addition, TSA incorporates random and unpredictable security measures throughout the travelling process.”
There are currently two ways to utilise this system in the US. For a fee of $100 a passenger can request a background check which if approved will allow them access to the PreCheck system for five years. An airline might also offer the system to frequent fliers for free.
Of course there is still a measure of security as random checks are still performed – but the ability of fliers to predict their status has security experts worried. So watch this space – we will let you know how the story unfolds…