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back to article Airport scanners face double exposure

A warning shot from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suggests that yet again, the UK government may be erring on the wrong side of the law – this time over the vexed question of airport scanners. Legal opinion is on their side: a barrister has told El Reg that the current scanning regime may not only be …

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Flame

I'm sure I'll be dubbed racist

But who IS more likely to be worth scanning?

White 90 year-old female

Asian 23 year-old male

Ageist, racist and sexist, but allowed one scan, I know who I would choose.

O

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You missed out ill-informed

The chance of a white 90 year old woman carrying a bomb or weapon on to a plane is, to several decimal places 0%.

The chance of an asian 23 year old man carrying a bomb or weapon on to a plane is, to several decimal places 0%.

Also, the scanners are easily fooled, so anyone smart enough to work out how to blow up a plane (as opposed to charring his shoes or burning his crotch) would be smart enough to evade the scanner. Allowed one scan I wouldn't bother.

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that's probably because you're ignorant

which is why you're not in charge of a scanner and, hopefully, never will be.

Because if you happen to be that 23 year old Asian, do you think constant harassment will help you regard authorities kindly?

Let's bear in mind that you'd pick the same man given one motorist to stop, one demonstrator to search, on photographer to move on, one suspect in a line up, one man to shoot at...

There's more to protecting a free society than shooting bad guys.

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I think the answer is

Neither.

Why would you want to inconvenience either of those people in a show of security theatre of minimal or no value?

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Coat

and ...

You forgot IT worker ...

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Grenade

That granny could be packing...

You think that's a pee-bag strapped to her leg? Hoho, just wait until she's in the toilets with a booklet of paper matches... Kaboom!

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Racist by design

Agreed onionman, the 'random' selection process can not be any but racist. They could do something like selecting every 7th person. But then that 'obviously dodgy nervous looking Asian guy' is number 6...

Or scan everyone - you'll have to turn up 6 hours before your flight leaves though.

Who thought this was a good idea again? ... Retard!

I'll be stripping down to my birthday suit if I ever get selected.

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Ageist, racist and sexist ... and wrong

How long do you think it would take for the terrorists to use people in your "safe" demographics to carry the explosives on board? Oh, that's right. It's already happened.

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The problem with profiling...

That my friend Mohammed is just as likely as your average caucasian granny to commit mass murder on an aircraft (i.e. not at all likely).

So why should he be singled out at the airport when my grandmother isn't?

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Not racist...

No, of course you're not racist... you're just a geriophilic sex-pest.

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The problem is

with *any* skew in the profiling, is it gives the terrorists a gap to slip through.

If you have a > 50% chance of being stopped if you are young, asian and male then the terrorists will use old white females. It's that simple. And if you can't attract any old, white, females fairly (there will probably be some out there) then you simply trick them into carrying the bomb on board.

I am heartily sick of this "war on terror (c)". There are gazillions of things terrorists *could* do - especially if they have no regard for their own lives. The fact they don't, seems to indicate to me there are far fewer terrorists out there than the authorities would have use believe.

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Coat

Either way you're cocked.

Scanning the old woman would count as extreme porn (since some people have a fetish for saggy boobs, which counts as "extreme" under the "I think it's extreme so it is" clause), but if you scan the younger bloke and he turns out to have a bomb, then. that could also count as extreme porn. After all, he's naked under there. With a bomb.

And if he doesn't have a bomb he'll call you a racist and have you arrested.

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RE: I'm sure I'll be dubbed racist

I'd agree with you.

Yet if the choice is a 23 year old female or a 90 year old Asian male I also know which I would choose to scan.

So I clearly can't be racist, just either sexist or ageist.

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Coat

yeah...

why look at the old bad when you can perv at a young stud?

Oh, you think these things are actually good to look for weapons? Sorry, must have got that wrong.

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Paris Hilton

Presumptionist

If I wanted to sabotage a plane and if the minds of security staff worked like yours, I know which of those two I'd choose to act as my mule.

Paris - body searches.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Onionman

So what if you had the choice of one scan between an Asian 23 year old male and Richard Reid (half White, half Jamaican)?

What's the point of targeting all Asians (assuming that you can even distinguish one from a Brazilian plumber by mere sight) when they might easily be Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic or Atheist (or Sikh come to that, but of course Sikhs can more easily be determined).

Are you suggesting some kind of testing be undertaken to accurately determine racial origin or is it just a case of letting some jobsworth pick out all the 'darkies' from the queue?

There are plenty of people from Pakistan who are completely indistinguishable from white people in appearance, so why you think it's even possible to tell (with any accuracy) who is Asian, is beyond me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm sure I'll be dubbed rascist

No I'll dub you a stupid rascist. You should really look into the effects of high false positive rates when looking for needle in haystacks. The only good thing is that you are too stupid to be a medical doctor.

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Cripes, I started something.

Well, thanks for all the considered and unconsidered responses.

I was pretty clear about what I was saying - given ONE scan that's what I would do. I agree that if you repeat it and you effectively had a sign stating that no white women over 70 will be scanned that just might give people a starting point to get round your security.

I will also say that I'm not sure you could persuade most old grannies that Jihad is a good idea. Suicide bombers tend to be younger; old people mellow too much. So I'm afraid you're never going to get her to do it for you, no matter how many cakes you buy her. Not even the nice ones with the rice paper on the bottom.

As to the last A/c (at 16:52) who has called me stupid, bear in mind that if the most stupid man in the world tells you it's raining, it has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of what he's saying, so it might be worth taking an umbrella. Also, Sonny Jim, I know more about conditional probability than you will EVER know. I guarantee that unequivocally. Given the amount I know, the probability of your knowing more is, frankly, close enough to zero to ignore. However, that has no bearing on the accuracy of my argument, so feel free to assess the facts rather than knee-jerking out the "stupid racist" card.

O

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I have no wish to see the Pervscanners rolled out

But there's a simple way to ensure it's not discriminatory, and one which is used for customs searches around the world.

Each passenger pushes a button, which gives a green light to proceed through the standard arch or a red light to have their genitals laughed at by a sweaty man in a uniform. The machine is programmed to give a chance 50/50 or 20/80 or whatever you want.

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Big Brother

Random?

Are they really? I always assumed there was some jobsworth sitting somewhere behind the scenes with a CCTV camera pushing a red/green button.

Maybe I'm being unfair to our fine upstanding security forces.

No, wait...

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Naive

And behind the one-way mirrored glass next to said button, are the customs officers with an "over-ride" button ... so they can make it the red light flash on whomever they wish.

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Grenade

Easy fix

Scan everybody. Yes, kids too. That means fixing the privacy problem right there. Probably by declaring it lawful to look at nekkid kiddies when all you are thinking of is guns and bombs. But hey, the law's the law, just ask mandy to change it.

Like the "absolutely essential" spin. Kudos for using already professionally discredited tripe to justify carrying on, government.

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Cowardly

"...His own view of statements put out by the Department for Transport (DfT) is that they bear all the hallmarks of civil legal advice – and that the DfT have therefore failed to recognise the criminal implications of their actions..."

Hmmm. So will we see a host of state-funded or subsidised child protection agencies stirring up a fuss about this? I wonder. Their silence up until now has been very conspicuous - and deafeningly hypocritical. Are times so very hard that not one of them - usually so very vocal when the issue of 'indecent' images of children is raised - dare to criticise their government paymasters? Craven scumbags, the lot of 'em.

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Suffer little children...

The child-protection agencies referred to are currently conducting a widespread and very noisy campaign against the government's ongoing policy of detaining the children of asylum seekers along with their parents in insanitary and traumatising conditions in so-called 'detention centres' which in other times we would have called concentration camps.

Most sane people would agree that is a far better use of the agencies' resources than worrying about the faint, ghostly images produced by a body scanner. But then again, most sane people aren't Daily Fail readers.

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Coat

interesting

"Given the current security threat level, we believe it was essential to start introducing scanners immediately"

is he some kind of George W bush clone ?

tosser

mine is the one with passport and all earthly possessions ready to move to another country

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This is a title, and I hear it's mandatory....

"...we might as well not bother at all with any limitations on police powers."

The only limitation of police powers currently in evidence is the limit of whichever Officer PowerTrip you're faced with's imagination to make up new laws on the spot...

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Coat

OOH! HER! I WANT TO SCAN HER! LOOKITEMBAZOONGAS!

Anyone that thinks this won't be happening is smoking some primo stash...

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Indeed

My ex used to work in airport security and let me tell you, this is EXACTLY what will happen

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Sounds like an admission of guilt

When they say ""The safety of the travelling public is our highest priority" the implication is that everything else is subordinate to that. That would include the safety of their staff, conformance with laws, budgetary limitations, common sense and doing (or not doing) anything else that could possibly reduce passenger safety.

As it is, the statement is just as badly thought-out as the policy it's trying to rationalise. Maybe the security services should start to recognise that they are now part of the problem - one of the things that we need to be protected against - as they have decided for themselves what we want, rather than asking us how much liberty we are prepared to give up.

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Penis Envy

Well, obviously, the people who don't want to be scanned are the people with nothing to hide.

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Easy way round

Rule 1. For every person who looks like this, make sure you scan 2 who look like that. Sorted.

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Paris Hilton

Is it just me..

..that's really not bothered by this whole debate?

If grainy monochrome psuedo-naked pictures are your idea of a good time, lucky you! I think the majority of airport staff though will just see it as part of the job. From what I've read there are controls to ensure that images are not retained so really the only thing to object to is that the staffmember in question sees the image.

I thought that airport security had the power to drag you off into a side-room and strip search you if you're suspicious anyway. Surely this scanning is a lot less of an ordeal than that!

Paris because: oh come on I don't have to explain the link to improper images being surreptitiously circulated do I?

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controls!

Tell that to mr Kahn (the bollywood star) who had printed images of his scan thrust in front of him to sign as souvenirs to the airport staff. Controls my arse (oh, hang on they do don't they)

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Some people will say anything to get noticed

The scanners done even have printers for them to be printed, never mind them to be printed in another room and brought out and giggled at for when he walked out of the machine...

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FAIL

Hardcopy?

What's to prevent someone taking a photo of a scan whilst it's on screen with their mobile phone?

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Paris Hilton

Guidlines? Commissioning Crimes?

"Despite government claims that their policy on using scanners to scan children is compatible with existing child protection legislation, he has his doubts. First, because the "making" of an indecent image is a criminal offence – and does not cease to be a criminal act just because a government department issues guidelines on the matter."

If the guidelines call for security staff to commit acts that are criminal, would the government ministers or civil servants responsible be committing crimes of commissioning criminal acts or something?

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FAIL

Straw man

45 year old asian man, 22 year old white man, 30 year old black man.

OK so now who do you pick? Less easy when you're not dealing with caricatures, eh? Read some Bruce Schneier, mate.

Oh and, back on topic, I've already bought a more expensive flight from an airport that doesn't use scanners in preference to a cheaper one that does. Commercial pressure might do what the law doesn't seem able to.

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pfffff

This has less to do with discrimination as it has to do with all the lawyers rubbing their hands.

kerching!

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First time within my

memory span, that, Trevor Phillips has actually made straight forwards sense.

That just show's you, there is a first for everything.

Although I'm not entirely convinced at how good community relations are going to be affected, unless of course all travellers through Heathrow actually live there.

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Stop

Government Communications Guide

Government Communications Guide

Step 1:

Repeat any old bollocks that fills the gaps, fills the airtime, obfuscates the problem, skirts the point, deflects the situation, shifts responsibility and leaves ALL options open.

Step 2:

Intersperse everything with one of the following: lets be clear, let me be clear, we have always been clear, allow me to make one thing clear, this has always been clear, we have always been absolutely clear - and any other variants including the word clear and in some way indicating pristine openness and clarity.

No, really, if i hear the word "clear" from these clowns again, i will start a campaign to have the definition of the word changed in the dictionary to "unclear, obfuscated, ambiguous" on the basis that definition is formed through use: government use = official use = so it really must mean unclear - who's with me?

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Anonymous Coward

What happened to the ADE651

Or the GT200? Which seems to be a related dousing rod technology.

It's one thing to argue over who should be searched, another to ask if these actually work. We have hand scanner already that work for metal. So I'm not convinced they're worth the money (or rather I am sure they'll cut the funding for real security staff and scans to pay for them).

ADE651 article is here to illustrate how everyone is so security scared they are gullible.

http://gizmodo.com/5396888/the-bomb+sniffing-gadget-thats-definitely-not-saving-iraq

"manufacturer's claims that the device works with spooky-sounding "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction..... System leverages internet-wide monitoring and sophisticated multivariate analysis to compute a rational metric for the overall trustworthiness....To detect materials, the operator puts an array of plastic-coated cardboard cards with bar codes into a holder connected to the wand by a cable....creating internet situational awareness."

As I say, everyone is so security panicked they put aside their rational viewpoint and make badly considered choices based on sales gobbledygook. Instead of actually doing the empirical check of one technology over another.

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Anonymous Coward

Is Random Selection Worth It?

"That is why we have been absolutely clear that those passengers who are randomly selected for screening will not be chosen because of any personal characteristics, and why we have published an interim code of practice which addresses privacy concerns in relation to body scanners."

What proportion of passengers are going to be selected?

50%? That would mean a suicide bomber would have a 50% chance of not getting scanned. And two, independently acting suicide bombers would have a 75% chance of at least one of them not getting scanned. Three independently acting suicide bombers? 87.5% chance of at least one not getting scanned. Four? 93.75% chance.

20%? That gives a suicide bomber an 80% chance of not getting scanned. And two? 96% chance of at least one not getting scanned. Three? 99.2% chance. Four? 99.84% chance.

80%? A single suicide bomber would only have a 20% chance of not getting scanned. And two? 36% chance. Three? 48.8% chance. Four? 59.04% chance.

So it's going to have to be most passengers getting scanned, otherwise suicide bombers have enough chance of at least one of them not getting scanned for it to be worth making repeated attempts. After all, as they say, terrorists only have to be lucky once, while those trying to stop them need to be lucky all the time.

And if it's going to be most passengers getting scanned, why not just scan all passengers? Why bother letting a random selection go through without getting scanned?

And that's before we even consider the obvious prospect of terrorists actually targeting the scanners (and queueing passengers) themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Minor correction

That's assuming the scanners have a 100% hit rate, ie "getting scanned" equals "getting caught" if you are a suicide bomber. But various experts have already gone on record saying that is far from the case. I don't know what the expected detection rate will be, but if it's above 40% it would count as "revolutionary", because the state of the art in detection is indeed that bad and worse, this stuff is made to detect something else than what the politicos would have you believe. So count on low single digit detection percentages as reasonably realistic, if perhaps a bit optimistic.

Besides, as you noted, that's assuming "the terrorist" complying with the security circus regulations. The pants bomber managed to board a plane unchecked and without a passport, while on a watchlist and with an actual alert outstanding against him.

So we have a system full of regulations where you can be refused boarding a plane for declining to be scanned, you can still be "caught" on a false positive (let's not forget those) and there'll likely be more of those because the systems look for different things than they should plus there is more pressure to "produce" would-be perps, the false negative rate is necessairily high, thus the overall catch rate is well below single percents, and evildoers still can easily circumvent the whole harassment system. Meaning that with these scanners the chances of ending up seated on board a plane next to another pantsbomber have just gone up. Yes, that's right, it has become (marginally) more likely to meet an evildoer on a plane. Carry on government.

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Anonymous Coward

Even 100% hit-rate is no guarantee

Took my mother on holiday with my family last year, we went to Florida. At Heathrow our hand-luggage was scanned, my two-year old was body-pat searched by security (wouldn't go through on her own, so my wife went first with no beep then carried child through with no beep, but which still means both have to be padded down ), and we all had our bags riffled through by the state (even the kids backpacks), we also had them examined by extra security at the gate.

When we arrived at our destination my mother opened her handbag and realised that she has a Leatherman multi-tool with a knife inside it.

So, despite the handbag being scanned and searched by "security" twice, they had failed to find a knife.

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WTF?

Just scan everybody...

...or scan nobody.

Otherwise I just don't see the point.

This isn't like checking for bus tickets where you discourage fare dodgers with random checks. You don't want ANYBODY slipping through. If it's too much of a hassle or against the law to scan everybody, then the new scanners are not a good idea.

"scan the dodgy ones" is a dumb and lazy policy. Even if the scanner has a 100% success rate, only scanning a small proportion of passengers with it surely makes it pointless?

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Stop

Whats new???

Its already discrimination when they choose someone to search their bags, to go into a room for a "chat", I honestly don't see the relevance of the discrimination claim. We all know that when you go to collect your bag there are teams of guys watching camera's that then say to the people on the ground talk to this guy, search that guy. So what's the difference of someone in a room saying scan this guy scan that guy.

Ok, lots of people don't like what can be seen, argue that, argue privacy, but don't argue that these people are going to "start" discriminating in a situation they already are.

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I'm just wondering...

but this whole making an indecent image being a criminal offence is interesting, as it states in the article the guilt can only be determined by a jury. But if the government is to be believed and these scanners don't store any images, would they be guilty of charges of destroying evidence in a child abuse case?

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Go

Thst is the whole point

"race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability."

let's see what does a typical terrorist is made of?

1. Race: mostly Arabe

2. Religion mostly Islam

3. Gender Mostly Male

4. Age: Age 20 to 40

5. Sexual Orientation: Hetero

6. Disability: Mental illness

Racial profiling and discrimination will save (b)millions of lives (and money) accross the world. Suddently been racist is not that bad...

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Another stupid moron

Not so long ago the real terroists with real explosives (Semtex etc) were white, and spoke with distinctive accents. They are raising their heads again in Northern Ireland. Tell me, do you support helfire missiles being fired at their houses? If not, why not?

Of the 6 criteria you list, I conclude you match 4 - if I'm allowed to treat stupidity as a 'mental illness'

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Megaphone

WHAT?!!!

"A spokesman for the DfT would not respond directly to that suggestion. Instead, he told The Register: "The safety of the travelling public is our highest priority and we will not allow this to be compromised. However, we are also committed to ensuring that all security measures are used in a way which is legal, proportionate and non-discriminatory."

WTF?! So while they will absolutely 'not allow' safety to be compromised, they are only 'commited' to ensuring they stay within the law, this clown is basically saying that they wioll break the law if they feel it necesary as he's given one goal higher (absolute) priority over the other (merely a commitment).

As this is an official statement from their spokesperson I can only assume that this is the considered position of the department.

What complete and utter bollocks =OC

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