I got my Global Entry interview and approval today, finally. (If you live in a city that is not Metro DC, it takes months to get an appointment.) I had to think about it, because basically I’m paying for the privilege of giving the government a ton of information and then I’m supposed to (not totally guaranteed) get priority access to TSA and Customs.
My friends who use it think it’s the best thing ever, and I’m flying more right now. It’s a lot of personal information, however. (I’ll leave for another day the discussion on buying one’s way out of TSA security theater still forced upon other travelers.)
I had no idea what to expect from the interview. My big joke last week at 30C3 was “Will attending this talk affect my Global Entry Interview?” Are there bonus points for being a white person of European heritage? Close relation of career government employees and contractors? Would my history of charitable donations be scrutinized for subversive organizations? I didn’t actually think we are so far over the cliff that this would be an issue for me, but with the news swirling around lately and the long history of negative actions “not determined by” race and ethnicity, I suppose I was happy I was at SFO and not some of the other places I’ve lived. And, as sad as I am to say this, not brown.
I have no idea what could have come up as a problem because the interview was mercifully short and uneventful. The officer wanted to confirm my residence and mailing addresses, check my documents, and take fingerprints. But there were some pretty pointed financial questions about my income. Aside from “Have you ever been arrested?” pretty much all he wanted to know is where my income came from. Like every third question, as if I would answer any differently. (Yes, that’s the point.)
There might not have been so many if I had a current employer they could verify. It might even have been different if I had my interview somewhere other than SFO, as the officer didn’t seem especially surprised to see a software person sans regular paycheck. Apparently there are a lot of those around here. I didn’t get to see what was on his screen he was comparing my answers to, but I could make some guesses. (When I said I had been through the London airport last week, he knew it was because I was coming from Germany.)
If I didn’t know how this worked, that would have been kinda creepy.
My husband won’t sign up for it because it’s too invasive. I sat down and looked at it: what I had to provide, what I’ve already provided to various government agencies for other purposes, and what I know must have already been collected about me because of who I am and where I’ve been. It’s already there, all of it, even the fingerprints. This is pretty much taking the mini-background check done whenever I buy a ticket and doing it all up front.
Do I like it? No, not particularly. I don’t like a lot of things my government does with my personal information, and I know they have a lot of it. And I’ve seen more than enough news to be convinced that the security state is growing at an alarming rate. Am I practical enough that I will choose to participate to get this benefit? After a good bit of internal discussion, yes. If one day someone in power decides that nerdy users of encryption, opters-out of nude airport scanners, and supporters of civil liberties charities are a menace to society, I’m gonna be in trouble. Will that happen? I can’t answer that. I do know that I’m going to deliberately consider my actions in this regard and not change a damn thing.