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Opting out

After Christmas I flew back to Iceland from Schiphol (Amsterdam), as I always do. This year I was met with a surprise when going through security, terminal C had been equipped with full body scanners. As unwelcome as this surprise was, it was not completely unexpected. Schiphol had been one of the first airports, which had implemented full body scanners in Europe. There had been a lot of controversy when full body scanners first came into use in the USA. People were opposed to it for various reasons.

  1. Privacy: the full body scan is invasive as it basically takes a picture (though the computer translates the picture into a more generic form) of one through the clothes. The pictures can be stored (this feature is built into the machines and needs to be explicitly switched off.)

  2. Health: There is research and expert opinions that it is save, there is research and expert opinion that the radiation of the scanners leads to cancer.

  3. It does not work: Several security experts have proven that it is possible to smuggle explosives and metal through the scanners.

Today full body scanners have only been implemented in five airports in Europe: Amsterdam, Paris(2), Rome and Venice (not counting the UK, who have implemented it in 5 airports in themselves, all London airports, Manchester, and Glasgow).

Despite all the controversy surrounding them, I watched as passenger after passenger stepped into the machines, lifted their hands over their heads, like a criminal and had their pictures taken. I opted out.

For which of the above reasons did I opt out, you ask?
It was partly for a combination of the reasons mentioned above, but also because I decided to stop tolerating the whole security theatre. I had been herded over too many borders, dealing with the bureaucracy around it, which only seems to exist for its own purpose.

For terrorism the response to the threat is disproportionately large. The likelihood of dying in a terrorist attack in the US the past 5 years was 5 times smaller than being hit by lighting even when including all the prevented attacks in the past 10 years into the equation.
As cynical as it sounds for every other catastrophe there is a cost-benefit analysis for protective regulations, taking into account the likelihood of the catastrophe to occur, how many lives might be lost and the cost involved. Which is why we do not have government issued lighting rods which we are required to carry around with us. Because that would be stupid., though cheaper and save more lives than the full body scanners (which have been shown to be useless). Heck, the risk to my health through these machines is more realistic than the risk of a terrorist attack.

Why is there so much hyperbole (and money spent)? I see two reasons:

  1. The security industry has a much better marketing team (or lobbying team if you will) then lets say the lighting rod industry

  2. Just think about it, millions of Euros are being spent on installing scanners into airports that have proven to be useless, might be dangerous to ones health and definitely seriously invade peoples privacy. The cost of which are going to be paid for by airport taxes, which are going to increase flight ticket prices. We are paying for anti-service.

  3. Terrorists make really good scapegoats for restrictive government actions

  4. It is used as an excuse for the surveillance state, which we are told is needed despite the fact that it does not work either against terrorist attacks.
    The other day someone threatened to attack a Pegida protest. Pegida are a bunch of idiots who make me feel ashamed for Germany. They are also rather awkward for the German government, who does not really know how to handle the situation. The threat made their live easier, basically forbidding them to go forward with their (idiotic) protest (freedom of assembly anyone? Freedom of speech?) and blaming it on the "evil" terrorists (I wonder if anyone even checked there was any substance to the threat) and basically making the fear-mongering of Pegida seem justified.

I opt out of this farce. This is something I wrote about before chosing the kind of society one wants to live in by ones actions. Lifting up my hands, take naked pictures of me, risking my health in the name of a ridiculously small threat, which it does not even provide more protection against, just so a private company can sell their machines is the point where I say no.

And who knows, if everyone starts to opt out and the security in the airport congests, maybe Schiphol will get rid of the machines.
Posted on - Categories: Politics

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