Friday, May 23, 2008

At what price convenience?

The Rocky Mountain News informs us that Denver International Airport will soon employ a "whole body imaging" device as part of a pilot screening program. The technology represents a disturbing leap forward for those who would ask us to sacrifice privacy in the name of security and, at least in this case, mere convenience.

The technology creates three- dimensional images of passengers' bodies using radio frequency energy, allowing security screeners to see items concealed under clothes.

Details of passengers' faces are blurred, and the security officials viewing the images are located in separate areas. But the technology has spurred privacy concerns from passengers, who say the images - which show contours of the body - are too revealing.

Florida-based airline consultant Stuart Klaskin shrugs off the privacy issue, saying the upsides present a strong case.

"There's a much-improved and expedited security-screening process using these machines," Klaskin said. "There probably is some momentary loss of privacy, but I don't think anyone has the time to look at these images in a prurient fashion. Realistically, it's much ado over nothing."

Everyone got that? It will be improved! It will be expedited! For get about your dignity. Forget about the fact that you are being treated as a convicted felon. The absolute dismissal of genuine privacy concerns should raise more than a few eyebrows. There's no attempt to justify this new and far-reaching technology on any rational objective basis. Instead we are treated to a patronizing dismissal and told, essentially, not to worry - the TSA would never do anything inappropriate.

Notice too that the patronizing occurs following an admission that, indeed, there will be a loss of privacy with this new technology. That admission is quickly brushed over, we wouldn't want to dwell on the fact that those concerns about privacy are in fact well grounded. No, no best to be done with the messy truth and move quickly to the spin.

Also, would be asking too much for someone from DIA or the TSA to comment on the issue at hand? Instead of a DIA or TSA official we get a random flack for the airline industry commenting vaguely. The people in charge of the airport and the security apparently have nothing to say about the legitimate privacy concerns of the citizens.

1 comment:

jen r. said...

Don't know if you caught this blurb a few months back - the TSA was the most hated agency in the US - receiving more votes than even the IRS!!!

They are nearly as unorganized as a federal agency could possibly be. Giving them room to abuse is just plain dangerous in my opinion.