App catches airport profiling in the act

A new smartphone application empowers air travelers to make complaints about profiling by airport security in real time. Until now, no easy way has existed for travelers who feel they have been unfairly treated to make such complaints.

The app, called Fly Rights, was developed by the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights group in the United States, with offices across the country including in Fremont.

Sikh Coalition Co-founder and Director of Programs Amardeep Singh told SFBay the idea for the app originated as a response to hundreds of complaints from Sikhs around the country:

“There should be an app for this.”

So, the organization created the app for both iPhone and Android. Within hours of launching the app, at least two substantive complaints had already been made: A woman who felt humiliated by a TSA agent improperly screening her breast milk, and a man who received extra, unnecessary screening.

Singh said he hopes anyone who feels they have been profiled or mistreated by TSA will use the app. He praised the NAACP and La Raza for their encouragement and active support in the creation and launching of the app.

The TSA did not oppose the app, Singh said. In a statement today, TSA stopped short of endorsing it:

“We continually engage with community organizations, including the Sikh Coalition, and individuals to help us understand unique passenger concerns and we support efforts to gather passenger feedback about the screening process.”

The Sikh Coalition hopes their app will bridge the gap between official reports of profiling and the reality of people’s frustration with the agency. According to Singh, in mid-2011 the TSA reported a total of eleven complaints for the year to Congress.