Saturday, February 20, 2010

Airport Security vs Airport Invasion of Privacy

There has been a lot of controversy about airport security searches and violation of privacy. Ideally, we all want our air travel experience to be effortless, convenient and safe. But, in today's world, is that a realistic expectation?
The answer is a resounding "NO".

So, what can we do to make travel safe?
The TSA has banned liquids, large packages, needles, knives, etc. Procedures for minimal searches were instituted that created long lines and travelers have to allow for 2 hours prior to departure times. This is clearly not convenient, particularly on shorter flights. But, still is it safer?
Obviously, if someone is determined to make travel unsafe, almost anything can be used as a weapon... but the question remains, what procedures does the TSA do that eliminates terrorists?

Along comes full body scanners.
Here is what a carry on looks like through a scanner.

And here is what a person looks like.

Here is an image up close. Clearly, you can see a weapon or two.
And here is another scan. This image is clearly of a male.

These images make it harder to hide weapons. But then the controversy arises.
Is it medically safe for passengers to be x-rayed?
What about the images, clearly of almost naked people?

While the medical issue seems to be legitimate, the issue of someone's vanity seems less important. But, as humans, we need to think long and hard on that one.

In the UK, child pornography laws make it illegal to use the scanners on children. ( Failure to search a child could allow one of the extremists to use their kid as a suicide bomber.)

But for adults, what's the harm?
In the UK, the TSA officials swear that the image that is shown on the screen can not be converted into a file or printed out -- which leads me to exhibit A.

Here is a printout of a person who was scanned at Heathrow.
Anyone who operates a computer knows that any image shown on a screen is a digital image and therefore exists as a file. This file can be saved, printed, enhanced, e-mailed or posted online.
It is irresponsible for any agency to make the claim that the images do not exist. That just ruins their credibility.

This man, an very popular Indian film star Shahrukh Khanwent to the Heathrow airport, through security and his scanned image was photographed. The security women printed off his nude image and handed to him, asking him to autograph it. He did and handed the scans back to the security officers!

Privacy is a concern. It is one thing to have your image scanned for security reasons and another thing to think that you might be the next Miss December.

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