Scanners work better if you actually use them

| Comments (3) | Security: Airport
Over the past few weeks I've flown three times through airports with the new whole body scanners (SFO terminal 3, SFO international, JFK terminal 2). JFK has the Rapiscan but they didn't seem to be using them at all—they were only in the priority line and a TSA agent was just standing in front of them. At both SFO security checkpoints, they had scanners (ProVisions at international, I don't remember in domestic) and they were using them. I'd been planning to actually decline the scan, but I didn't have to because in both cases they were only in some lines, so it was relatively easy to avoid them by picking which line you went into. At the international checkpoint, I actually had to cut across lines but nobody seemed to care.

If you actually want to get value from a security measure you need to ensure that people can't just bypass it. Consider the case of a terrorist carrying some device which won't show up on the magnetometer but will show up on the whole body imager; you just choose the line with the magnetometer.

Now, most likely the TSA is just getting started up here and eventually they will actually have scanners in every line and make everyone use them. After all, presumably they're not planning to have a bunch of scanners whose only purpose is be something for TSA screeners to lean against. What I'm curious about is whether at SFO TSA will give you the enhanced pat down if you refuse the body scan, since you could have evaded it easily without coming to their attention just by picking the right line.

3 Comments

I accidentally went through the scanner in SEA with my iphone in my pocket.

They didn't notice, or didn't care.

Many airports have some sort of randomization to assign which line you go in, so there is some probability that you'll get the full body scan. I've seen checkpoints where you walk up to a station where an agent is standing and an arrow points you one way or the other, with one being the scanner line.

Interesting question is whether the arrow is cryptographically random, or whether I can predict the sequence by watching it for a minute, and let someone go ahead of me if I'm going to get the scan.

I made the error of traveling through SFO's Terminal 3 recently, and they gave no option other than to go through those stupid body scanner machines. Make no mistake, the scanners won't work better whether they use them or not.

I opted out, and they did their idiotic groping. It's the most phony "security" process I've ever experienced. I will be swearing off flying, if that's what it takes.

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