Ever been hassled by the airline because you're on the terrorist watchlist? Can't use e-tickets for the same reason? Can't get off the list? Even though your most subversive act was once tearing a "do not remove under penalty of law" tag off the bottom of the couch?
You're a Privacy Victim.
There's always been a pretty easy solution to overbroad "no-fly" lists. The solution hasn't been implemented, though, because the ACLU and other privacy advocates campaigned against it. Why? Well, to save you from the risk that Big Brother might find out, uh, well, your birthday. That's right. The same birthday that's on the license you hand over to TSA every time you go through inspection. And, come to think of it, wasn't the license was issued by state government -- a sort of little Big Brother? But never mind, the ACLU fought hard to keep that birthday out of TSA's electronic files. No matter how many people the fight would inconvenience. Aren't you glad they're on the job?
There's a long story here, but the short version is this. The no-fly list has always been pretty short -- a few dozen people in the US and a few thousand worldwide. But it's administered by the airlines, not by the government. Airlines with bad computer systems may truncate names; airline employees may spell names in many different ways; so the government has had to include all possible spellings of the names on the list, bloating the list and inconveniencing many people. If the government ran the system, it could standardize the process. And, most important, it could use data like birthdates to say, once and for all, "this infant is not the T. Kennedy you're looking for." It only takes a little data to differentiate the handful of people we don't trust on planes from people with similar names.
The 9/11 Commission said that TSA should take over the program and solve these problems. Congress mandated that TSA do so in 2004. But it still hasn't happened. Why not? Because the ACLU campaigned against letting the government gather data on travelers, and it persuaded Congress to stall the program for years. The stall is at an end (TSA has passed several demanding and time-consuming tests to show that it can be trusted with your birthday), but implementation will still take many months.
So will the ACLU apologize for all those years of hassle that as many as a million passengers have endured? Not likely. For privacy campaigners, the fight over the no-fly list is a two-fer. First they get publicity and attorney's fees fighting to keep data out of the hands of TSA. Then when the lack of data predictably produces a system that's bad for travelers, the ACLU spends years complaining about how bad the system is. TSA takes the blame either way.