Wednesday, November 17, 2010 #

Airport security vs. privacy - can smarter technology provide a nice middle ground?

There's a lot of public backlash concerning the new TSA Airport security measures which include the new rather invasive body scanners and the option of a very intimate pat down should you decline the body scanner. What I want to know is why can’t the people who build the body scanners build them a little smarter? Smart enough so that everyone passing through doesn’t feel like they’ve just walked naked past a group of strangers.

Now I don’t pretend to know all about what goes into developing the backscatter x-ray machines but it would seem to me that a happy medium would be to make the machines so instead of showing the image of the person’s body all the time, it would only show a “Pass/Fail” type of indicator. For example, if I went through with nothing suspicious, a green light would simply show on the top of the device where the TSA person is. If on the other hand I went through with stuff I shouldn’t bring on a plane, a red light would show with perhaps an audible alarm. At that point TSA would probably be a little more justified in either turning on the actual image to see what suspicious items I may have, or opting for the aggressive pat down search. But the point here is the default behavior would allow all of us law-abiding people to contribute to airline security while maintaining our dignity.
I’ve read in the little research I’ve done they are already using some algorithms in the image generation to distort private areas on the output image so the level of detail there isn’t as accurate as it could be. Why couldn’t the developers write some pattern recognition software too?
OK – here’s where you come in. Provide feedback here because maybe I’m on to something or maybe I’m not. I’m just thinking there’s probably a better way to do this America…after Oppy the Mars Rover’s odometer just rolled over the 25 km mark when it was only meant for a 90 day mission travelling a max of 1 km (thanks @MarsRovers for that tweet!). Maybe now that NASA is retiring the space shuttle and possibly looking for work, they can rescue us all with an intelligent backscatter scanner.

Posted On Wednesday, November 17, 2010 8:04 AM | Comments (2)