American Culture

We're all porn stars now, thanks to airport security

“Rodney Deegen was surprised alone in his security booth where he was pleasuring himself while staring at ghost-like images of naked children. He was arrested immediately. Investigators suspect that he may have distributed some 350,000 images of naked people over the past 18 months.”

You remember that story, don’t you? Was all over the press in July 2012? Oh, wait, that hasn’t happened yet. Still to come, so to say. Let me get my thoughts arranged.

It was in 2009 that airport security added the new full-body x-ray scanners to their arsenal of devices to humiliate and traumatise travellers. Sarah Barrett, head of customer experience at Manchester airport, says, “This scanner completely takes away the hassle of needing to undress.” Because we’ll do it for you.

Now, before you tell me that the images could hardly be described as pornographic, let me direct you to Two Girls One Cup. If this is sufficient to cause some people to immediately discombobulate themselves in their trousers, I’m fairly sure that security camera images will be hot-stuff. Plus, imagine the job advert:

“Wanted: mature individuals to look at images of naked strangers of all shapes, sizes and ages for hours at a time while alone in a secluded booth; don’t worry, it’s not child porn if you do it for security reasons.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the security difficulties faced by the world’s major transit authorities. There really are people out there who are out to kill us. But there are lots of ways to cause mayhem in a public place without resorting to actually getting on a plane.

And, we live in the information age. If the image exists then the image is public. Telling us, as Sarah Barrett does, that, “The images are not erotic or pornographic and they cannot be stored or captured in any way,” is just so much bullshit. Give that security guard a camera-phone; oh, wait, he has one already.

Yes, the technology is possible. No, this is not an acceptable use of that technology. Find another way.

If beating terrorists involves giving away all the privacy, confidentiality, liberty and respect for the individual that we are supposedly fighting so hard for, then we’re not really beating the terrorists.

Maybe it’s just that this technology is lazy. These images should be digitised, processed and then only random bits shown to security for final analysis. There are ways to ensure that this is entirely depersonalised. Otherwise profiling is likely; age, gender, even cultural origin are likely to be visible in these images.

Leave the embarrassing personal pictures to teenagers posting on Facebook. The rest of us are just travelling, nothing to see. And nothing we want you to see.

3 replies »

  1. I have a theory, and i’ve made it a point to propose the theory aloud to fellow travelers over the years: rather than dealing with all these security hassles, we should just fly naked.

  2. I assume you saw the story of the Heathrow security guard warned by police for sexual harassment after making ‘inappropriate comments’ to a colleague who had been through the machine. Not quite your 2012 story, but exactly the wrong type of PR at exactly the wrong time ! Did you also know that the machine makers have developed technology to screen most of the pictures – so that they are viewed on an exceptions basis rather than every image – but it would appear this is not being used.

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