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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Does Airport Security Rely on Blind Faith in Technology?

21 June, 2012
European airport workers study reveals fear of initiative amongst security workers who just do what the technology tells them
A research project initiated by the Technion Institute has been studying attitudes of airport security operatives in Europe and has come up with the astonishing claim that as many as 50% of the research participants have problems trusting the technology that they're equipped with for detecting threats.



This lack of trust, according to the research findings, centres around false alarms and the procedures for dealing with alerts. Suspicion and fear of being sacked from their employment results in many alarm conditions being dismissed rather than instigating a follow-up investigation which could possibly result in delays for passenger queues.



The research also came up with the equally astonishing "result" that three-quarters of the security workers had never encountered a real threat. This statistic throws into question the validity of the whole study since it implies that 25% of airport security workers in Europe had encountered a real threat. Considering the number of security workers in the 600 airports across Europe, that's an alarming number of threats being encountered. Of course, there is no definition of what constitutes a "real" threat and could be someone trying to carry a glass bottle or sharp instrument on board.



The real issue associated with the results of this study is that of enabling security workers to use their human skills of instinct and experience without fear of retribution rather than having these qualities stifled by standard procedures. Technology will always have error rates, false alarms and questionable results so the whole system of security Europe's airline passenger networks depends on the reliability, professionalism and effectiveness of the people operating it.



The study has revealed little information about the results apart from a few headline conclusions which don't stand up to much scrutiny on their own. More detailed conclusions are needed by the airport security industry as well as the technology suppliers in order to understand what changes are needed to allow the procedures and systems to evolve in the right direction.
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