The complaint, filed by Washington, D.C.-based consumer privacy watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, contended that Northwest engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it sharedwith the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The Ames Research Center at NASA had sought the information in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to aid in its efforts in making air travel safer, according to the Transportation Department.
Representatives from EPIC and the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the ruling, but EPIC said in a posting on its Web site that it plans to petition for a review of the decision.
Representatives of the Transportation Department and Northwest had no further comment on the ruling.
In June, in a related but separate dispute, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson threw out seven consolidated class-action lawsuits against Northwest. Magnuson ruled that the suits, which had charged that Northwest had violated passengers' privacy rights,, in part because the policy posted on the airline's site was unenforceable unless plaintiffs claimed to have read it beforehand.
Northwest is not the only airline that has admitted to sharing customer data with the federal government related to Sept. 11. America West, Continental, Delta, Frontier and JetBlue have also said they forwarded information regarding their passengers.