Monday, March 13, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) Are Airports Handing Out Your Information?

“Step aside please and take off your shoes.”

What’s not to like about airport security? Everything? That’s about right. As concern about terrorism and smuggling rises around the globe, so too do the security measures at airports. It started with the request to put your shoes on the conveyor for the x-ray machine. Then it stepped up to ‘random searches’ (which some might argue are not so random). Now we have automatic body scanners. In a world where trust is limited, how far can we trust the data collected by airport security?

These days airports and the transportation commissions that run them are catching more heat with each security measure they implement. Why? Mostly due to the fact that people are impatient, but the privacy piece is also very relevant. While the things that we may have in our luggage or carry-on may not be dangerous or illegal, in some cases they may not be things we want others to see. Private notes, embarrassing medical items, that gag gift Larry gave you during the company retreat; the list is long and everyone has a different definition of ‘private’.

How are airports countering these concerns? As an example, Canada is testing automated biometric stations at some of their airports in an attempt to streamline check-in and remove the human element while maintaining a high standard of security. These kiosks will use facial recognition technology to perform a quick check of certain criminal databases to make sure travellers are not a risk. While little information has been disclosed about how the kiosks will work, it has been mentioned that they are able to scan iris’ for comparison against NEXUS databases which exist to expedite entering the US and Canada (CBC).

Questions of both ethics and privacy have been raised in scenarios where this type of biometric technology has been deployed. Australia has announced a plan to implement biometric technology across all of their airports to address a concern around an increase in international travel to and from their country. Ethically, the biggest concern is economic. By implementing a machine to do the work of a person, you lose jobs (Guardian). Another angle is how that data may be used. During the Stanley Cup Riots in 2011, an insurance company defied FIPPA [Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act] and offered to release its database of drivers license photos to Canadian authorities to help identify suspects (Canadian Underwriter). On top of that a machine needs to conform to certain security standards that are constantly changing and nebulous. It is easy for a creative hacker to find an opening nobody has thought to protect to exploit with a ‘Zero Day Attack’ that nobody will see coming.

Attacks like these prove how woefully inadequate digital security is and are a huge cause for concern when considering the sheer amount of data that would be collected at even a single airport. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people who will be forced to trust unproven systems with their personal data. ID numbers, age, address, fingerprints, the list goes on. In short, safety and privacy should not be sacrificed through unproven systems. Biometric programs should be tested through opt-in beta programs and monitored closely before being forced upon the public.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...