Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

24 September 2007 @ 3pm

The insanity of ID checks

At the air­port, you’re asked to show a gov­ern­ment-issued ID along with your board­ing pass before going through a secu­ri­ty screen­ing checkpoint.

You can elect not to show an ID, but you’re required to sub­mit to a more rig­or­ous (read: fair­ly inva­sive) search if you do.

There’s a few basic prob­lems with this approach.

First is the implied increase in secu­ri­ty that you get from a sim­ple ID check. It’s easy to “pass” the ID check that’s per­formed in the secu­ri­ty line. A real-look­ing ID is easy to get: ask any under­age col­lege stu­dent. Alter­ing the infor­ma­tion on an all ready issued ID is no walk in the park, but it is cer­tain­ly fea­si­ble. With an inside con­tact, get­ting a new, valid ID issued with the desired infor­ma­tion is easy.

In addi­tion, only the pho­to is matched to the hold­er of the ID: it’s pos­si­ble to print a fake board­ing pass (Googling this is left as an exer­cise for the read­er) to match the giv­en ID’s infor­ma­tion, then use a dif­fer­ent (read: valid) board­ing pass at the gate of the aircraft.

The sec­ond core prob­lem is evi­dent with the “mul­ti­ple paths” way of look­ing at the ID check. A mali­cious per­son will always take the low­er detec­tion or low­er risk of cap­ture route through a secu­ri­ty bar­ri­er or check­point. Fal­si­fy­ing an ID is much eas­i­er than try­ing to sneak explo­sives, sharp objects, or bal­lis­tics through a more thor­ough secu­ri­ty screen­ing. There­fore, the only peo­ple who do sub­ject them­selves to the no-ID, extra screen­ing method through the secu­ri­ty check­point are all, in a sta­tis­ti­cal sense, harm­less trav­el­ers. This quite obvi­ous­ly defeats the pur­pose of addi­tion­al screening.