Azara Blog: Some engineer wants to tag airplane passengers

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Date published: 2006/10/14

The BBC says:

Electronically tagging passengers at airports could help the fight against terrorism, scientists have said.
The work is being carried out at a new research centre, based at University College London, set up to find technological solutions to crime.
Dr Paul Brennan, an electrical engineer, is leading the tagging project, known as Optag.

He said: "The basic idea is that airports could be fitted with a network of combined panoramic cameras and RFID (radio frequency ID) tag readers, which would monitor the movements of people around the various terminal buildings."

The plan, he said, would be for each passenger to be issued with a tag at check-in.

He said: "In our system, the location can be detected to an accuracy of 1m, and video and tag data could be merged to give a powerful surveillance capability."

The tags do not store any data, but emit a signal containing a unique ID which could be cross-referenced with passenger identification information. In the future, added Dr Brennan, this could incorporate biometric data.

The project still needs to overcome some hurdles, such as finding a way of ensuring the tags cannot be switched between passengers or removed without notification.

The issue of infringement of civil liberties will also be key.

But potentially, said Dr Brennan, the tags could aid security by allowing airports to track the movement patterns of passengers deemed to be suspicious and prevent them from entering restricted areas.

How many terrorist incidents would have been prevented with such technology? (Certainly not 9/11.) And if you can get into restricted areas of airports you can do so perfectly well without being a passenger. And if the tag can be removed then it solves nothing. This seems like a classic case of a technology in search of a justification. Unfortunately some scientists and engineers will spout any sort of nonsense in order to obtain funding.

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