The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not have to rely on spy databases or telephone data to collect information. Instead, agents only need help from a travel agent. According to Forbes, the FBI uses information from Saber, the company with the largest amount of travel data in the world, to conduct surveillance around the world. According to official information, the company is actively spying on targets, even when traveling.
In December 2019, the FBI asked Saber to implement weekly real-time surveillance with Indian refugees Deepanshu Kher for six months. The company is required to place an order, transaction or reservation with Kher, who was later arrested in January 2020 and placed under house arrest. According to Forbes, travel dates are also used to capture Alexei Burkov, a retailer of the credit card information.
Saber did not make any comments on the matter, while Indian refugee lawyers and the Justice Department also declined to request comments. Saber is not the only giant in travel data (besides Amadeus and Travelport), for a time, they were noticed when helping the US find the way of hijackers in the “event.” 9.11 ”after their attack. However, this new report shows that Saber has been actively used to track suspects.
This also shows significant privacy concerns. Companies like Saber hold vast amounts of data that can be abused. That is said to have happened when the FBI used the All Writs Act, a controversial measure to request Kher’s information, similar to the way it used to force Apple to hand over iPhone data before. Although in the short term, tourism data like this has become paralyzed during a pandemic situation, the problem will repeat once normal tourism activities return.