but they've been keeping records on passengers for years. Maybe not centralized; ie accessible by one central database, but airlines have been required by the CAB as long as I've been working to keep these records.
I used to work for the airlines 25+ (and I ain't telling you how big the + is) years ago, and even back then, each airline was required to keep 7 years of flight information on all their passengers.
The problem was when the FBI required information, from what I hear, the airline usually had to bring in some programmers to get the info. However, a lot has changed since I first started programming. So, with the new database technology they have out there, it might be easier to get this information. I don't know. Perhaps they might already have it in place for their own use (like for frequent flyer programs, etc.)
I do know the airlines have had a lot of layoffs and like a lot of companies, have made cuts in their dataprocessing departments to save money. So, I don't think this will "Poof" appear, unless there is some money provided somewhere. My opinion, of course.
I just don't think this will be coming down the road quickly. I could be wrong, but I feel this announcement is more the government getting a centralized database rolling while it has its foot in the door, so to speak.