Airport security and me are inseparable. This time, it was at the Las Vegas International airport. I was stopped at the security and asked to go via the full body scanner instead of the metal detector. No surprise there! I contemplated for a second and asked them if it is mandatory to go through it and they said, “No”. So I told them that I won’t go through it if it is not mandatory. As soon as I said that, they announced to every other TSA personnel in the vicinity by yelling that they have an “opt out”. A security personnel came to me and told me that since I opted out, I will be manually searched. And he then went on to describe how they will search me. It went something like this “We will touch your inner thigh, around the breasts, butt, blah blah and blah”. It is not like I had a better choice than say yes. So then, they yell for a lady TSA person. The lady comes and asks if I am sensitive to touch, I was like, huh, Let us try and see how I do! Then she asks me if I want to be touched in privacy or in front of everyone. I went, sure! I like an audience, so let us do it in public. Then she starts rubbing me with her rubber gloved hands all over, it was a little short of a cavity search. And finally she said she was done, and I said, Thanks for the free massage and left! We got to see the positive side of everything, right? While all this was happening, my colleagues and hundred other travelers were having fun watching me and wondering why I wouldn’t go through the scanner. I have my reasons:
- They were picking people randomly and they had to body search the people even after the scan (The body scanner was raising an alarm for the last 3 people that were asked to go through body scanner before me).
- TSA personnel weren’t sure about what they can/cannot see
- TSA personnel weren’t sure whether they will/will not store the scanned images
- TSA personnel weren’t sure if the radiation from the scanner is bad for health.
- And they were picking mostly women! So wasn’t sure if the person watching the scanned images did that deliberately or not!
And tell me I was wrong after reading this story from today.
Update: I am not alone! Check this out!
The airports have funny security. You cannot carry liquids more than 100ml. Ok. That is simple right! But they do allow you to carry upto 2 litres of alcohol or big bottles of perfume if you are in an international flight and if you had purchased it in a duty free shop inside the airport. So someone buys couple of litres of alcohol or perfume on his/her way from Cancun, Mexico to New York and has a stop over in Phoenix. So from Cancun that person is allowed to carry the alcohol/perfume on board. Once he/she arrives in Phoenix, the security there will not allow him/her to carry the alcohol/perfume on board. What can one do in that situation. Throw the expensive liquor/perfume. Drink or spray it all. Either they allow or not allow. Or at least, they should tell while buying, that they won’t be allowed to carry it on board if they have a connecting flight. It is is just so crazy how this whole airport security operates. No wonder things like these happen.
I was traveling from a major airport to my hometown. Now that I pretty much know the security routintes, I placed all my liquids/gels/paste in the check in and just kept my backpack. After I checked in, I found a water bottle in my backpack. Managed to guzzle the rest of the water and walked through the security with reverence. Opened my backpack, laid out my threatening laptop, dangerous slippers, scary backpack in the belt and guess what happens, the security personnel is just talking to her friend without even a glance at the baggage x-ray passes my baggage. The same thing happenned to the 5 passengers that were standing before and after me. And what do I see at the end, everyone is carrying water and I am the only stupid one with no water and running to find a restroom quick. If this is the way they secure us, why bother posing all the restrictions and confuse stupid people like me.
I see many debates going on whether publishing personal information and photographs in the internet is safe or not. Here is what I do. There is already a lot of information about us on the internet whether we want it or not. As soon as we bought our house, our name, address and the price at which we bought the house were on the internet since they are public records. Since most of those are out of my control, the least I could do is not put my personal information by myself on the internet. Google used to have this feature where you enter a person’s phone number and it gives you the name and address. They took that feature down recently. I guess it is a win for the people. StreetView might end up with the same fate. It totally depends on people’s response. Maybe Google will come up with algorithms to mask number plates and people’s faces. But it will still bother me.
I came across this article about corporations digging the internet to find out about a person before hiring them. But I don’t think they can do it for long, since most of the younger generation have their life opened up in the myspace and orkuts. So if corporation in another 5 or 6 years will run out of young people if they rely on information from the internet.
As for posting pictures, even if you have it in a yahoo/picasso/flickr account password protected, it is still out there in the internet. How strong are our passwords? Maybe not tagging the pictures with names might help. So posting pictures for everyone to see in the blog is not that big a deal if you already have pictures in the internet somewhere. You are protected only if you don’t ever upload your pictures in the internet.
All said and done, I still choose to be anonymous to the strangers.
I grew up in a country where airport security is a norm. No liquid restrictions at that time, but one is patted down all over the body just to make sure you don’t have any concealed weapons. So I am used to it. When I came to the US, I was surprised at their airport security or the lack of it. Wait.. this was before 9/11. Remember when the world(read the US) was a safer place. Now coming to the present day, the airport security in the US makes one wonder, are they really doing these for security reasons or just to keep people in fear. Take the liquid restriction for example, why wouldn’t they allow unopened/sealed bottle of water while I can carry 10 tiny bottles of some other liquid in a ziplock. And what’s with selling only the VASA brand water. Who owns it? I have never heard of this brand of water before this liquid security restrictions started. Anyone knows who owns this brand of water. I couldn’t find any information about this brand of water. One cannot stop from wondering if this is all a scam to sell this VASA water.
Don’t mistake me! I am all for security. But all I see in these security measures are loopholes nothing but loopholes. Take for instance, the CLEAR plan from the airport security where you register for 99$ a year, they check your background, once you are cleared as a good person, you don’t have to take your shoes, belts, etc, off in front of the whole world. But who is to say that the person who is CLEAR won’t change the next day. Don’t you think it is just a scam to make some money out of us. Do they really care about security.
These are just a few random thoughts that came to my mind while traveling last week. I have couple of more flight trips to look forward to (By the way, did I mention, I hate flying). So I am sure more will come to my mind. Watch the space.