Data collection is easy, analysis is hard
January 11, 2004 12:43 PM   Subscribe

That U.S. intelligence agencies confuse terrorists with children on passenger jets is a reminder that data collection is easy, but data analysis is hard. That must be why the six-year-old daughter of one of Boing Boing's co-founders is on the CAPPS list as a security risk. All this is also a reminder that we need privacy safeguards for these data mining programs.
posted by homunculus (34 comments total)

 
Completely appalling. Perhaps even worse is how acquiescent Mark Frauenfelder is about all this -- though I can understand. Why do the citizens of the United States comply so readily when these sorts of decisions, which lack even one whit of common sense, are committed without their input? The time has come to take a stand, although doing so now in the eyes of DHS would probably be considered an act of terrorism. But enough is enough.
posted by ed at 1:04 PM on January 11, 2004


I'm on the paranoid side of things, I'll admit, but I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking the current security efforts are all a massive sham. It isn't possible to make air travel safe, or any other public activity, for that matter.

We know this, the government knows this.

What the DHS is trying to do is creat the illusion of safety and security, hoping to inspire American consumers citizens to keep shopping vigilant and go about their revenue streams lives.

On the other side they hope the illusion intimidates would be terrorists away from stealing airplanes.

Since it is all smoke and mirrors, however, it is doubtful that terrorists are going to be dissuaded from action, they will sit back and watch for the slight of hand; the weaknesses of our security system and exploit them at will.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2004


isn't Frauenfelder the boinger who tangled with TSA over the "suspected terrorist" lapel button? if so, i'd say he's manipulating the system, and us, for the sake of story material. not that TSA isn't a very rich source of such...
posted by quonsar at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2004


Nope, that was John Gilmore.
posted by majcher at 2:29 PM on January 11, 2004


Nope, that was John Gilmore
posted by mmascolino at 2:30 PM on January 11, 2004


Jinx!

Mmascolino will buy mr. majcher a coke.
posted by zpousman at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2004


As long as Sarina is being searched, America is Safe from Harm.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:40 PM on January 11, 2004


Mmmmm, coke.
posted by majcher at 3:41 PM on January 11, 2004


well, I dunno about you all but I actually do feel safer...

...other than the fact that I'm always a little afraid that I may get stopped and questioned and harassed for completely arbitrary reasons. I never felt this way before 9/11.
posted by mcsweetie at 4:43 PM on January 11, 2004


"Sarina" means Goddess in Arabic.
posted by precocious at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2004


So are confusing children going to replace the air marshals?
posted by srboisvert at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2004


obviously, mcsweetie, you have much to hide. step out of line, please.
posted by quonsar at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2004


Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Democratic Party?
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:35 PM on January 11, 2004


This discussion is ageist. Children have every right to be terrorists if they want to.
posted by troutfishing at 6:38 PM on January 11, 2004


I'll bet a fellow could smuggle in a couple pounds of plastique explosive in a baby's poopie pants.

Hmmm... How much C4 could an incontinent senior smuggle in his undies? A: "Depends!"

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 PM on January 11, 2004


All the security stuff does is raise the bar of chance that any given plot will be stumbled into. Stated another way it just tries to make it more difficult--like your average padlock or door lock. I suspect the current level of restriction is probably as high as citizens are tolerant of it getting.

If that random nature means that occasionally a kid gets searched, I'm going to be OK with that. The personnel sounded like they handled it responsibly.

Frankly, I was surprised the system let his wife fly with an expired id.
posted by rudyfink at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2004


If that random nature means that occasionally a kid gets searched

It wasn't random. Her name was on the list, and now she will be searched everytime she tries to fly, just like every guy named David Nelson is searched everytime they try to fly.
posted by homunculus at 7:33 PM on January 11, 2004


rudyfink, that's a nasty thing to say about that guy's wife, an expired id....

Can somebody's id expire? I guess it's sadly possible. But banning them from flying as well.....that's just darned cruel. Freud would weep.
posted by troutfishing at 7:35 PM on January 11, 2004


Yeah, and she could've carried a teddy bear packed with cordite onto the plane. If she could've found a 55-gallon drum on board in which to detonate the bear, that flight would've been in real trouble.

The depressing part of this particular thread is that, in the Comments seciton of the post, several folks basically responded with "well, she'll just have to get used to it. Children can be used by terrorists as well." Friggin' morons. Drug smugglers can use kids, too - will you sit still while some guy in rubber gloves rummages around in your kid's ass because someone misspelled a name in a database?

Think about it - somehow, their six-year-old daughter was entered into a secret government database by person(s) unknown apparently because the mother, a U.S. citizen, had an expired license. No checks, no balances, no verification, no nothing, apparently. In other words, an unknown party entered her name in a list of potential terrorists and alerted our domestic federal police because her papers weren't in order. And entered the wrong name. And, instead of correcting it, mindlessly proceeded to search the six-year-old daughter.

Why aren't we screaming about this? Have we become this inured to a basic loss of rights that something like this doesn't bother us, except as a dry topic on which we chat?
posted by FormlessOne at 8:32 PM on January 11, 2004


And, instead of correcting it, mindlessly proceeded to search the six-year-old daughter.

That's possibly the worst part. Not only was this poor kid subjected to this completely pointless exercise, but none of the authorities involved seems to have either the sense or the will to fix a system that is obviously broken. And some people defend them! It's absolutely pathetic.
posted by homunculus at 9:03 PM on January 11, 2004


Nasty, huh? I don't even know his wife. She's probably a wonderful woman save the flaw of her id renewal forgetfulness.

To be clear: I don't think it was a "good thing" his wife or his child allegedly ended up on this list. Frankly, I find the whole new airport security system somewhat insane. Neither of those two points means that I don't think it's good to try and improve security.

Unless something changes, the present reality is that the current definition of security is basically random searching. There are also some notions of an always search filter for certain individuals. As we've seen evidence of repeatedly, it's imperfect. This means that individuals should be speaking out against the problems, which is happening.

Is all of this searching probably all that helpful? I don't know. My gut feeling is "probably not", but I have little to go on besides feeling. The general consensus still seems to be "more security!", so until that fades I'll hope with everyone else that the system gets more responsive to resolving errors.
posted by rudyfink at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2004


It's the Bush Administration Motto: "Sitting still while some guy in rubber gloves rummages around in your kid's ass."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 PM on January 11, 2004


The Department of Homeland Ineptitude: bringing us closer to living the movie Brazil every day . . .
posted by wdpeck at 11:04 PM on January 11, 2004


What does primary screening involve in the US if they only do hand luggage and shoes at the secondary level?
posted by biffa at 2:02 AM on January 12, 2004


Well what's the point of a list of threats if the threat is not on the list ?

Obviously, it's pointless. But I see a few more reason that justify the existence of The List

1) give an appearance of scrupolous control
2) give an appearance of Govt knowing who's the bad one
3) use the excuse of omonimy to harras political activists, dissenting intellectual figures visting U.S.
4) introduce the concept of mandatory identification, first by using an harrasing stupid method of search , so that travelers (expecially frequent ones) start demaning faster methods : welcome to retina or fingerprint scan, which leads to the creation of a Big Brother like database of biometrics.

All of this is fueled by the excuse of national security , as if the national borders were -effectively- closed when you scan all the passengers coming with plane/ship/passing from check points. Which leads to facial recognitions, cameras all around the cities to "detect the terrorist while they walk in your very neighbourhood".

What gives ? 6-7 figures contracts for "sekurity companies" that will install expensive devices and measures. And who do you often find in big sekurity companies ? Military at the end of their career or other "security" officials, often but not necessarily always in bed with Republicans or new "right wing" (call it NeoCon or whatever) parties.

All at the expense of the taxpayer. Brilliant scam indeed.
To keep this machine running you just need to fuel scare, FauxNews a good example of the media helping on this project.
posted by elpapacito at 2:59 AM on January 12, 2004


This kid sure doesn't fit AnnThrax Coulter's definition of what a terrorist should look like.

Fear as a political tool.
posted by nofundy at 4:39 AM on January 12, 2004


I can see measures like this being at least partially effective in keeping amateurs like the shoe bomber off our planes. But surely any actual terrorist plot is going to be more organised?

Together with actually placing people with guns on passenger flights, I wouldn't be surprised if all this has made flying more dangerous.
posted by bwerdmuller at 4:58 AM on January 12, 2004


I suspect the current level of restriction is probably as high as citizens are tolerant of it getting.

Well, so far it's been increasing - why do you assume it's about to stop? In any event, so far a large part of US citizens have shown to be on the *very sheepish* side, not daring to even ask obvious procedural questions like why on earth would a six year old be considered a terrorist (IOW why are the counter terrorist measures is place so utterly idiotic). I'd say that the number one deterrent right now is the fact any attempt to take over a plane requires to overpower ALL the passengers & crew while they fight to save their lives, as no one will believe anymore that a terrorist does not want to slam the plane into something.

But if there is a will, there is a way. The next big escalation in useless security might come after a terrorist figures out how to bypass the above caveat, not the current security measures. Who cares if they take away a small pair of scissors at the X-ray machine when you can buy a much more deadly large glass blunt object (also known as duty-free liquor bottle) down the corridor .
posted by magullo at 5:39 AM on January 12, 2004


Why aren't we screaming about this? Have we become this inured to a basic loss of rights that something like this doesn't bother us, except as a dry topic on which we chat?
-- FormlessOne


Right on.
posted by dejah420 at 7:29 AM on January 12, 2004


In any event, so far a large part of US citizens have shown to be on the *very sheepish* side, not daring to even ask obvious procedural questions

Well, yeah. Do you want to be the one who gets hauled off to the little room for three hours of questioning while your flight takes off without you? Me neither. So I just deal with it and fly as infrequently as possible. I would skip flying altogether, but the country is so big that it really isn't practical. Meanwhile, I *seethe*...
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2004


What does primary screening involve in the US if they only do hand luggage and shoes at the secondary level?

Questions at the check-in counter and a walk through the scanners whilst your purse/carry-on luggage is being xrayed.
posted by deborah at 11:29 AM on January 12, 2004


U.S. to color-code air passengers
posted by homunculus at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2004


"In this paper, we show that since CAPS uses profiles to select passengers for increased scrutiny, it is actually less secure than systems that employ random searches."
posted by homunculus at 4:38 PM on January 13, 2004


Via /., which has more links on CAPPS and CAPPS II.
posted by homunculus at 4:47 PM on January 13, 2004


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