We are at an interesting time of choice in American history.
- How much security is enough security?
- Must more security mean a loss of more personal liberties and privacy?
- What is the balance between organic and technological security solutions?
- Is the conversation about people management and control, is it about security, or are they the same?
If you don't want to be in a global database, the current solution statement to our current problem statement of increased security means we choose an organic security solution. This implies we then stand in line and wait to be scanned naked with a system that allegedly does not cache our images and/or be frisked in an 'enhanced' manner. Managing mass people populations is difficult and mass solutions are often sought. For example, intimidation, humiliation and fear are oft-employed methods of people management and we need look no further than historical and current 1st and 3rd-world war and conflict history for examples. People tend to bend to intimidation and humiliation and seek to avoid it through compliance or escape. Our US experiences to-date have even employed strikingly loud and embarrassing talk about a person, in front of a person, while in the midst of a large, inconvenienced crowd. We do not have an easy path to walk in terms of increased security expectations increasingly enforced organically.
Another option is to reduce security with the possibility of increased accidents and tragedies. If we choose to use airports and desire reduced security or non-technology based security solutions, this means we are hoping that the person in Detroit, Michigan has the same level of knowledge and training as the person in Phoenix, Arizona and that they are both acting according to all practicable boundaries of acceptability, respect and integrity in predictable and repeatable manner. The variability in human behaviour is of course unpredictable else we would reasonably and accurately predict the stock market, currency valuation, crime, corruption, Presidential and Congressional decisions and children. Our question is the same, whether organic, technical or a blend of both to do the job: "Do we increase security, and if yes, how? Do we decrease security, and if yes, to what trade-off if any?"
If you don't mind being in a database with Big Brother watching and logging your life for history, trending and forecasting, then the implementation of more intelligent and multi-tendriled technology solutions will more than likely eliminate the physical intrusion upon your person and belongings while clandestinely taking away your societal anonymity. In the State of Iowa for example, even if you choose to stop using the airline systems, in order to get your driver's license your face will be scanned into a national database and validated as approved or unapproved for a variety of considerations. We should not be surprised if this database is shared across multiple domestic and international organizations. As government institutions do not tend to be on the cutting edge of original thought and technology adoption, we should further not be surprised when these same institutions fail to manage the data and it is hacked and abused domestically and internationally.
For those of us who haven't yet considered this phenomenon, as a population, we are already tracked. Our cellphones ping cell sites every three seconds telling the switch where we are for the purposes of billing. This data may be used to generally triangulate location of cellphone and a user. This data often includes the international mobile equipment identifier number (IMEI), international mobile subscriber identifier (IMSI) and the cellphone number which are all associated to a billing name and address. And many of today's smartphones include GPS and IP location based tracking enabling user's and watcher's the ability to identify from what location a blog post was pushed, a tweet tweeted and where you are in relation to your friends geographically. If I have a cellphone turned on, I am tracked. To what degree I am tracked is, for now, up to me. How many people are using cellphones? According to the NY Times in a 2010 dated article, nearly 90% of all US households. As for the world? Wikipedia is tracking this by country in terms of technology adoption comparisons. We're already using tracking technology whether we know it or not.
And on the internet, there are no secrets. Similar to car having unique chassis and engine block numbers, so do all technical devices. And to be on the internet, similar to all countries with postal systems needing street names and house numbers, computers and networks are the same. Each device on the net has a unique identifier. Each router that a computer routes through for traffic has a house number as well. And the servers from which we pull data? Yep. Numbered. You want to be on the net? You can be found. Think you're anonymous? Yes, it is still possible. Though it is becoming more challenging for the general non-technical populous to understand how that is achieved. You should assume that everything you do on the net is trackable, logged and associative to you, personally. Corporations do this in self-defense. ISPs, whether they do it on purpose or not, can. If electronic and on the net, tracked, logged and assigned to a unique user id. In terms of the internet, we are already tracked. Have you thought about buffered IP calls?
And what about transportation? Particularly transportation that has an internet connection? Well, if you're car doesn't already have GPS installed, soon it will have internet. And if internet, then unique identifier numbers. In your car and think you're anonymous? You have your cellphone with you don't you? And if your car is equipped with GPS and/or internet, we have other coordinates as well. There is only one thing missing.
In terms of technology adoption and security, the only thing we haven't yet discussed is the insertion of RFID tags into our bodies. We already track all of the hardware items we use on a daily basis. Now how about our physical bodies? We already do this with internationally travelling animals by the way. Both of my dogs had to have RFID chips to travel outside the country and for sure to re-enter. With RFIDs doctors would know what medicines you need, your history and allergies as they approach your body with a scanner. It could save your life. With RFIDs, you will be able purchase groceries without going to a till and walk straight into a ballpark without standing in-line for tickets or payment because it is attached to your banking assets. As with Google Maps, with RFIDs, every location and interaction we ever take will be viewed on a computer screen dynamically and logged in a very large database. If RFID 89x28039a2:02 is in the vicinity of 83x2wo09i2:03, it will be logged. RFIDs wouldn't eliminate the need for a physical pat-down though, just us having to wave our passports, boarding passes, identification, credit and debit cards.
New generations of technology give us a superpowers unlike any before it. Unfortunately, we don't always know how to manage a superpower until we abuse it first. Where is the balance between using a superpower and respecting the individual? And what will superpower abuses look like? What will be our personally available recourse if violated? After all, data gets abused very often. One record incorrectly associated to other unlike records, another corrupted or removed. This happens often in daily business operations whether we acknowledge it or not. If this were not the case, we wouldn't need database administrators to write data scripts fixing things we broke at the data level after last night's software upgrade. Let's be honest. Now we have to consider the trade-off. Does technology simplify our security-filled lives on the front-end at the airport and will it get complicated on the back with background checks run on corrupted data records? Or should we avoid the whole drama and simply take enhanced pat-downs from someone who may not be effectively trained and restrained to respect our privacy?
Understandably, this problem is not easy to solve. We can watch or we can get involved and help solve it. But if you choose not to get involved while governments are crafting policy and procedure, then we shouldn't hear you complaining at the airport.