The internet takes on US airport security

A grassroots organisation, inspired by posts on the link-sharing website Reddit, is rallying against US airport security measures.

A grassroots organisation, inspired by posts on the link-sharing website Reddit, is rallying against US airport security measures.

Fly With Dignity - initially named "Operation Grab Ass" - was inspired by Reddit moderator Raldi, who suggested users begin an initiative to inform the public about the Transportation Security Administration's methods at US airports. Several Reddit users donated their time and skills to make it happen.

The organisation is opposed to the backskatter x-ray scanners, which allow TSA agents to see through the traveller's clothes, and the "enhanced pat-downs" people are subjected to when they choose to opt out of a full body scan. TSA agents are required to cup the genitalia and breasts when performing an enhanced pat-down.

Debate in the US about airport security was ignited when blogger John Tyner recently refused to be subjected to either the backskatter scanner or a pat-down and recorded some of his interaction with airport security.

Fly With Dignity organiser Joshua Sherman said the backskatter scans were intrusive, and potentially unsafe because of the high level of radiation the devices emit. At a hospital people would be shielded from the radiation by lead, he said.

"It sounds more like a federal raid than a day at the airport," he said.

Sherman also believed that scans taken were being stored somewhere - something the TSA refutes - and that a TSA agent or a site like WikiLeaks might eventually reveal where.

Sherman said a TSA agent could theoretically take a photo of a person on the scanner, creating a database.

The images are also supposed to blur faces and genitalia. However earlier this week the technology website Gizmodo said when it leaked some of the 35,000 images it had obtained - which were not supposed to be stored in the first place - staff at the website had to blur faces and other identifying features.

The Israeli airport security system of behavioural profiling was a more favourable way of identifying terrorists, Sherman said.

He did not believe the enhanced pat-downs would prevent terrorism.

"It's like jailbreaking an iPhone," he said.

"You're told by Apple not to do it and at the risk of all kinds of threats and such, but somehow people get by the software limitations without Apple's help."

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Siobhan Keogh

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