Feel like the TSA overstepped their bounds during a security check? There’s an app for that.
On Monday April 30th, the Sikh Coalition released a mobile phone application that allows individuals to report complaints to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in real time.
“The idea came from Sikh entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who were facing profiling...Somebody literally said ‘there should be an app for that’ and we ran with it,” said Rajdeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s Director of Law and Policy.
The app, called FlyRights, allows individuals instant access to a form requesting the same information as complaint forms available through the TSA and DHS websites. Once information is entered into the form and submitted, an email, containing the information, is sent to both of the departments for review. Upon receiving the complaint, it undergoes the same process that all other complaints registered with either the TSA or DHS.
While individuals can file complaints through forms on both departments websites, the app allows them to do it almost instantly. Crucial details, or even the motivation to file a complaint can be lost between the time of an incident and the time a traveler reaches their destination or has access to the Internet.
“The app really bridges the gap between the time an issue is had and the time a complaint is filed,” said Singh.
Singh said he and others at the Sikh Coalition found particular pleasure in the universality of the app.
What we are particularly happy about is that we have created a tool for people outside the Sikh community.. The whole purpose of this app is to empower people to file official complaints....it cuts across religious categories,” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed the application.
“[The concept of] ‘flying while Muslim’ is a phenomenon that has arisen since September 11th and has really become part of the American Muslim experience,” said Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney at The Council of American Islamic Relations.
CAIR, a civil rights organization, is no stranger to complaints regarding the TSA. However, making a case for profiling has its obstacles without documented patterns.
“When you're trying to get a government agency to act that government agency will not necessarily act unless there is a documented pattern of activity occurring,” said Abbas. “The absence of that documentation is an impediment to [getting rid of] some of the profiling that is occurring at the airport.”
While those impediments may be removed, the app does not guarantee action by the TSA or DHS.
“What’s left to be seen is if the government will take the information and [use] it in an effective manner to put a stop to profiling,” said Abbas.
Singh hopes the popularity of the app, with over 3000 downloads in its first few days, and its universality will not only make it a useful tool for travelers but a step toward addressing racial profiling in the United States.
“I think it’s going to make the TSA and DHS much more accountable. At least that is our hope,” he said. “At the very least this application will create a dialogue about whether the DHS or TSA have sufficient internal controls on how it handles profiling.”
Just a few days after its launch the app recorded five unique complaints filed.
“If because of this app [the TSA’s] complaint volume goes up exponentially the Congress will be asking them questions,” said Singh.