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3/25/2010
01:24 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
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TSA Wants To Track Your Phone's Movements

The Transportation Security Administration is proposing to install devices in airports that would track your electronic devices as you move through the facility. They claim this would only be used as you wait in security lines to see how long the average wait times are and then use that information to make adjustments to better serve you. Uh huh.

The Transportation Security Administration is proposing to install devices in airports that would track your electronic devices as you move through the facility. They claim this would only be used as you wait in security lines to see how long the average wait times are and then use that information to make adjustments to better serve you. Uh huh.USA Today explains that they would use tiny receivers around the security area that will track serial numbers or other unique information that your devices broadcast even when not in use. This would primarily be phones, but could also be Bluetooth devices or anything else that might have a connection running when you aren't using it, like a Kindle if the radio is turned on.

Since it is the devices serial number, there is no way they can even pretend this is anonymous data. I don't have a problem with the usage described, but airport security screeners aren't the most trustworthy when it comes to explaining how they will use technology. One of the most controversial devices are the full body scanners that take pictures of your naked body to look for weapons. They all told us that the images aren't saved, and that of course turned out to be false. Just this week we learned that one security scanner turned this machine on a co-worker, ogling her and making inappropriate comments.

If the TSA wants to track our movement, that's fine. Have a kiosk that holds some of those restaurant buzzers you receive when waiting for a table and let them track that through the security line, collecting them as you enter the screener. Volunteers can pick them up and be tracked as they move through the line without fear that their travel information, including the exact time they were screened, is collected in yet another database, or worse, that the device info will be passed along to other databases that can use similar tracking receivers located anywhere their imagination allows.

The article says that users can turn off this broadcasting of data, so it may be as simple as disabling discovery mode on a Bluetooth device. I always recommend you do that anyway, more as a protection from hackers. Now, you may need to so Uncle Sam isn't watching your every move.

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