Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's time for us to drop the hyper concerns over privacy

I just don't get all the privacy fears over the full body scan machines. Much has been done to address privacy concerns for airport passengers.
Depending on the specific technology used, faces might be obscured or bodies reduced to the equivalent of a chalk outline. Also, the person reviewing the images must be in a separate room and cannot see who is entering the scanner. The machines have been modified to make it impossible to store the images, Ms. Lee said, and the procedure “is always optional to all passengers.” Anyone who refuses to be scanned “will receive an equivalent screening”: a full pat-down.
I realize that there are concerns that we'd find pictures of our body scans to end up on the internet, but there could be modifications to the machines so that no one could extract a file and post it somewhere else. But I don't see the wisdom in making sure that the scans aren't saved. What if someone got through and we found out that he'd found a way to smuggle explosives past the scanning machines. Wouldn't we want to be able to go back to the machine and find out what had happened and how he'd done it? Perhaps the pictures could be stored for at least 24 hours, but then if there is no way to identify whose scan is whose, that wouldn't do us any good. Critics point out that if we plug the hole in airport security, we'd still be vulnerable in other ways.
However, he added, body imaging technology has its limits — the machines cannot, for example, detect objects stowed in bodily orifices or concealed within the folds of an obese person’s flesh.

Bruce Schneier, a security expert who has been critical of the technology, said the latest incident had not changed his mind.

“If there are a hundred tactics and I protect against two of them, I’m not making you safer,” he said. “If we use full-body scanning, they’re going to do something else.”

The millions of dollars being spent on new equipment, he said, would be better invested in investigation and intelligence work to detect bombers before they get to any airport.
Well, we saw how much all that investigation and intelligence work did for us to prevent the Christmas undie bomber. The only thing that saved those people's lives on that Northwest flight, were the alert and brave actions by individuals aboard that flight.

Sure, if it was harder for them to blow up an airplane, they'll switch to something else. Does that mean that we don't protect the airplanes to the fullest extent possible? I'm struck how, eight years after 9/11 and all the security provisions put into place at airports, that terrorists are still aiming at airplanes. So we still need to protect ourselves there. For myself, I'm much less embarrassed by such a body scan done anonymously than a personal pat-down. Would I like to be able to stroll aboard an airplane 20 minutes before takeoff? Sure. But we're not living in that world anymore. Let's get real, folks.