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Schneier Has Something Good To Say About Airport Security 226

Bruce Schneier points out on his blog a proposal to use electronic randomizers at airport security checkpoints. Schneier writes there: "I've seen something like this at customs in, I think, India. Every passenger walks up to a kiosk and presses a button. If the green light turns on, he walks through. If the red light turns on, his bags get searched. Presumably the customs officials can set the search percentage. Automatic randomized screening is a good idea. It's free from bias or profiling. It can't be gamed. These both make it more secure. Note that this is just an RFI from the TSA. An actual program might be years away, and it might not be implemented well. But it's certainly a start." In this case, the proposal is for randomizers that direct passengers to particular conveyor-belt lines for screening.
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Schneier Has Something Good To Say About Airport Security

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:04PM (#44333885)

    Is there evidence that profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior is not more effective than randomized screening?

  • Re:Same in Brazil. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dafradu ( 868234 ) on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:31PM (#44334091)

    Nothing new here.
    Had the same experience in mexico a dozen years ago.
    Red light or green light.
    But back then, there was a guy standing on a switch could just flex his knee to make additional selections if you looks particularly shady.

    We had (still have?) this in Brazil. But i think it was only in the customs area, not really for security screening.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2013 @08:39PM (#44334139)

    I don't want to misrepresent Schneier's position, but I've read articles of his in the past which basically say a profile is bad because it gives a way to avoid screening: avoid matching the profile.

    Randomized screening may allow a single terrorist through, but something like 9/11 which required 19 guys means almost certainly one of them will be caught. If one is caught, you know to look for others.

    Of course, the real solution is locking the cockpit doors and passengers who will kill anyone who tries to hijack an airplane.

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Friday July 19, 2013 @09:20PM (#44334297) Homepage Journal

    Profiling inevitably produces more false (usually an order of magnitude more) positives than real positives, and generally produces as many false negatives as false positivves. In other words, you're a lot more likely to spend your time searching someone for no reason than catch an actual bad guy, and as likely to let a real bad guy through as not.

    And that assumes the profiling is done in an objective, unbiased manner. When human decisions are made as to who gets profiled, there will be bias, whether the humans doing it realize it or not. This, at least, eliminates that.

    I'll bet, though, without reading TFA, that there is no thought whatsoever of this replacing any current profile based screening, only being used in addition to everything done now.

  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Friday July 19, 2013 @09:41PM (#44334383)

    Frankly, I don't care how effective either is; just get rid of the TSA and stop harassing people, even if at random or by profiling.

  • Re:Same in Mexico. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:57AM (#44336191)

    You overlook the single most important difference between Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists. The Christians don't feel compelled to conduct bombings etc in order to make political or religious points - they're still largely in charge of the political machinery. There's no point conducting mass action terrorism when you can rely on your political institutions to more or less protect your rights.

    The day American Christian fundamentalists start feeling like a true oppressed minority, is the day they stop shooting abortion doctors one by one and instead turn to mass bombings.

      Of course, it doesn't help us with the Muslims when they actually participate in the political system fairly and then we all cheer when they get dethroned in a coup that we would condemn in a second if the government were anyone but fundamentalist Muslims. Now that we've proven to them that the democratic system actually doesn't work, I expect them to turn to more direct methods.

    Fundies are fundies, and their tactics differ largely only in how much power they have.

  • Re:Same in Mexico. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pipatron ( 966506 ) <> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:26AM (#44336253) Homepage

    The speed may also have to do with the fact that it's supposed to be random - They have no reason to believe you're some smuggler just because the random selector picked you out. You're most likely just some tourist.

    Had the selection been on who looks the most suspicious in the eyes of some middle-manager customs officer, the staff better find some drugs or they will have proven their boss wrong, so it'll take a lot longer to search your bags.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling