Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why passengers and security personal don’t trust technology?

By Prof. Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum*

While the debate goes on about how far technology can go to make airports more secure, there has been a growing recognition it is nearing its limits.

This recognition has come partially from the backlash of passengers who feel they are being abused and from the bottom line costs to the aviation industry.

Airport passengers check-in
Passenger backlash, for example, is evident in the latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll about passenger health fears concerning airports and flying. Not surprisingly, passengers are more fearful of the security procedures in airports than flying! Nearly one quarter (23%) said they would refuse to be examined in one of the whole-body scanners now situated in many airports. A third of people under 35 said they would decline the scans.

The interesting quirk about health has more to do with trust than actual fact. Security personnel operating these machines do not need any “radiation” tags as its impact is minuscule.

Incredibly, the same phenomenon among passengers also appears among the very security employees who screen us. The BEMOSA Project has shown that a similar percentage of security employees don’t trust the very technology they use.

If we put this together with the fact that most also report that the vast majority of security incidents are false alarms, we are entering into a situation where the whole concept of airport security may be undergoing a radical change.

What these few pieces of information suggest is that airports can no longer be considered mass production factories where both the employees and passengers are seen as cogs in an intricate but totally controlled industrial process. The “cogs” apparently have a mind of their own! And, as the data point out, there is a point where control simply will not work.

Perhaps it is time to rethink past concepts of how security fits into an airport framework.

One alternative that makes a lot of sense is to view the airport as a service organization. Its goals are the provision of services to its clients – passengers – and in doing so will require security arrangements to mold themselves into the actual patterns of behavior of employees and passengers. This is a dynamic process but it is doable!

*The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA (Behavioral Modeling of Security in Airports).