Sarker-3 Airport Security: Why Safety Is More Important than Privacy Since September 11th, people have become concerned about airport security. The millimeter body scanner is one of the outcomes of people’s concerns. The scanner creates a full body image that can reveal any suspicious element that may be concealed on their person. While this type of image can calm some fears, the scanner is now a controversial issue. Arguments for each side focus on two main areas: privacy and safety. When it comes to safety, most of us agree to give up some sort of personal freedom in order to be safe.
On the other hand, the loss of some freedom can conflict with privacy, and some are not willing to give up some personal space to be safe. In other words, a line has been drawn between safety and privacy. In my opinion, we have to give up smaller self concerns in order to promote the common good. We should prioritize safety over privacy, even though body scanners violate some personal space. To understand how the issue of privacy and safety relate to security scanners fully, we must define first the function of the security scanner.
A security scanner is a machine that creates a virtual image of a body and shows everything “opaquely” under a person’s clothes (USA TODAY). The scanner moves around a person and creates millimeter wave images that are three dimensional holographs (Lisa Vaas). After September 11, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) worked to place to have modern security systems in US airports, and the 3D scanner is the result of this modernization. However, the scanner is not accepted by all travelers. The lack of acceptance reveals concerns about privacy.
Sarker-4 Why should we be more concerned about safety than we are about privacy? To answer this question we will examine safety and its importance in terms of present fears and concerns. Then, we will consider the effect of not prioritizing safety in airport security. To do so, we must exemplify and give facts about the importance of safety and how it was ignored before September 11. Finally, we will analyze the matter of privacy, which is important but not as crucial as safety. In doing so, we will establish that safety should get priority over privacy in the current airport security system.
Airport security is very important due to present rumors that cause fear and concerns about explosives in airplanes. On Christmas Eve of 2009, a Nigerian young man carried explosives beneath his underwear in Amsterdam Airport and was successful in boarding his plane. Fortunately, he was caught on the plane (“Airport body scanner”). If Amsterdam airport had virtual scanners, would the young man carrying explosives have made it onto the plane? Probably not. The flight was heading to Detroit, and if he had been successful, that incident would have drastically affected the American people psychologically.
Given this example, it is likely the full body image scanners would be effective in strengthening airport security and calming people down. In fact, 78% of travelers who travel more than twice a year do not mind being scanned (Frank Thomas), and most of them actually “favor plans to install body scanners at airports” worldwide (USA TODAY). If the majority of travelers do not mind going through the scanner and actively support its installation, why should we neglect security by failing to install scanner in all airport? In using scanners in the airport, the Transportation Security
Sarker-5 Administration is addressing people’s safety concerns. In current circumstances, having high technological security gives people psychological confidence to travel on planes. Despite safety, many people are concerned about their privacy in the present airport security system, especially with the use of 3D scanners. Many think present security and use of the full body scanner in airports is time consuming and ethically wrong. The new body scanners are not actually time consuming since the old, outdated system requires travelers to come to the airport hours before their flight.
Therefore, the scanner does not take any extra time. Going through 3D scanner, however, still remains a concern because many individuals value privacy. Knowing the fact that the Millimeter Wave Scanner creates naked pictures of the entire body and security workers see the picture, some believe this scanner is an extraordinary invasion of privacy under the best of circumstances (USA TODAY). Therefore, the scanner still remains a concern. Those against the scanners are likely very passionate about defending their privacy. When it comes to exposing their bodies, they value their privacy over security.
The privacy issue is serious but body scanner officials keep a very careful distance among the passenger and workers. The people who see the image can not see the person. They just detect whether the passenger holds any suspicious elements or weapons. The work is very strict in that they are not able to make fun of people’s bodies. However, there was an incident in Heathrow airport in London in which two workers had a fight over creating naked body image of a worker (Declan). The incident might be the reason to be concern of privacy, but that is rare regarding virtual imaging scanner.
Sarker-6 Even though most of the negative rumors turn out to be wrong regarding the millimeter wave scanner, there are a few being proven right. Airport security officials said that they do not hold on to the images for more than 48 hours. This claim, however, was proven wrong, when it was discovered that “some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U. S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse. (Privacy Inc). In the article by Privacy Inc, there is reason for concern when dealing with privacy. But we can not draw any conclusion at this point. As we all know, most of the things in the world have positive and negative effects. As a democratic country’s citizens, we know majority wins. Therefore, it is imprudent to favor privacy over safety when it comes to preventing danger in airports, even if ten thousand images are being kept for security purposes. As many people urge to protect privacy, the TSA invested money to make airport security more tolerable inventing machine such can read minds.
FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) is developing a scanner that can read minds. The underlying theory is that body reacts, in measurable and involuntary ways, to revel nature of intention. Putting laser cameras, measuring heart rate, body temperature, respiration and asking certain questions it will be measurable to determine naughty or nice intention (Cherry and Corley 61). As statistics show, safety has been a major concern and privacy has been a minor concern, yet technological advancement can strengthen both concerns. “We are not reading minds,” says Robert P Burns, a eputy director of innovation at the Homeland security Advanced Research Project s Agency and the FAST project manager Sarker-7 (Cherry and Corley 61). The virtual body scanner only scans body, but it can not read minds. If the FAST is able to develop a mind reading machine, that will be a revolutionary invention for our airport security system. The dream of a mind reader is not yet a reality, but given the facts and extreme incidents such as September 11th safety continues to be the most important priority.
However, I understand why people might have concerns about privacy. No one wants an image created of his or her naked body, let alone seen by complete strangers. But we don’t have yet the technology that can provide safety and also protect people’s privacy. So, we have to stick to the best possible security and hope that the mind reader project will be successful. Airport security has gradually evolved since the tragic events of September 11th. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worked to have new, more effective technology in place to protect citizens and prevent future national emergencies.
The virtual security scanner is the outcome of this goal. Going through scanner might save the lives of thousands of people. Scanners have been effective but also criticized since their invention. As human beings, if given a choice between being subjected to the virtual body scanner or being in constant danger when traveling by plane, what would we chose? I definitely will choose to use the scanner. It is understandable to have moral values and concerns about naked images in the airport, but we can make a small sacrifice in order be safe.