Pointless Security

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One of the things that I find most frustrating – probably along with every traveller – is pointless security. We’re all, I think, in favor of things like metal detectors and x-rays and other things that improve our security measurably, even if they’re hardly foolproof. But security, unfortunately, doesn’t stop there. Instead we’re proliferating volumes of “security” policies that range from the pointless to the truly invasive.

The latter was highlighted a few weeks ago when BoingBoing’s own Cory Doctorow was waylaid by American Airlines who wanted to know what he’d had for breakfast on the second day of kindergarten. Ok, not really, but their questions were very involved and, in my opinion, not appropriate. Worse, the larger context of these requests is scary – nobody seems to know what is done with that sort of information, let alone if its privacy is protected.

For each of those stories, however, there’s 10 pointless little policies that simply serve to frustrate and annoy people already likely to be frustrated and annoyed with their travel woes. That’d be fine if these policies made us somehow more secure, but they don’t. Security guru Bruce Schneier discusses one instance here where Amtrak is going to begin checking ID’s – why? What does that accomplish?

But anyway, I ran into just this sort of ridiculousness yesterday at Westchester Country airport. After taking this picture of a power outlet in the small terminal, I decided that it’d be nice to get a shot further out for better context. Before I was able to do so, a security guard approached and said that pictures were not permitted in the airport. Really, I asked? That’s a rule? Yes, he said. When I asked why, he replied – politely, to his credit – it’s just a rule, sir. That, I think, sums it up nicely.

These pointless policies are institutional creations – often by committees – and handed down to employees who couldn’t care less about the reason they exist, but dutifully enforce them despite the absence of any reasonable justification or measurable impact on security.

I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a hell of a lot safer if there were less rules but more common sense at work.

Update: Fixed a grammar error. Thx, Peter.


  1. Just a small picky grammer point. The correct expression is, "employees who could[n't] care less about the reason they exist."
    We could always care less.

  2. may be small and picky, but it's true. fixing it now, and thx for the correction.

  3. And, it is becoming more and more evident that airlines are using security as an excuse for their surly behaviors.

  4. amen, brother, amen.

    i remember not too long after 9/11 when a female coworker of mine was reduced to tears by asking why a security representative was pawing through her underwear and he responded by shouting "WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11."

    security as an excuse for instrusive/inappropriate behavior is a rampant problem, IMO, in our nation's airports.

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