TSA may install devices at airports to detect and track personal gadgets


40 Responses to “TSA may install devices at airports to detect and track personal gadgets”

  1. jimkirk says:

    “The receivers recorded the time when a passenger entered a security line and the time when the same passenger cleared the checkpoint, Purdue transportation engineer Darcy Bullock said.”

    Should read

    “The receivers recorded the time when a device entered a security line and the time when the same device cleared the checkpoint, Purdue transportation engineer Darcy Bullock said.”

    There, fixed it.

  2. holtt says:

    The irony is, it’s a brilliant hack and a neat way to solve the problem of measuring line flow.

  3. Anonymous says:

    As with so many other crowd-related issues, Disney already has a great solution for this. When they want to measure the speed of line movement, they simply hand a card to you as you enter the line, noting the card number and the time of issue. You give the card to the cast member at the head of the line. Subtract and voila! you know how fast the line is moving.

  4. Brad F. says:

    Just a few more small invasions of privacy and people will be willing to sign up to have chips implanted in their body for the sake of increasing personal safety.

  5. jheiss says:

    I despise most of what the TSA does, but this seems like a neat hack and doesn’t rank as a privacy violation in my mind. If my phone is broadcasting data I don’t see why I should get mad at anyone for listening for/recording that, particularly as the broadcast is easily turned off if it bugs me that someone might see it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @ article photo: HAHAHAHAHA… ha… ha. I laugh,because there’s nothing else I can do when faced with such concentrated irony.

  7. cha0tic says:

    So how do I learn if my Nokia is ‘chirping’ and what can I do to turn it off?

    • Brother Phil says:

      Just switch off your bluetooth, probably. Either that, or switch off your phone or put it in flight mode.

      The first is probably a good idea in general – only switch it on if you’re using it.

  8. Dewi Morgan says:

    Yeah, I don’t see the issue there: you’re already showing your RFID-enabled passport (or some other ID for internal flights, I don’t know). They know who you are, and know that you were in that line at that time. You are on security cameras.

    What possible data mining use can they get from your BlueTooth id that they don’t already have?

  9. simon says:

    Wow, that propaganda poster is shocking.
    I’d expect to see something like that in China or N.Korea perhaps but not u.s.a..

  10. Phikus says:

    On NPR I heard an article about people opting in to do the same sort of thing via an ap in smart phones to measure traffic flow. Not a bad idea for crowdsourcing data if voluntary. But why the need for additional hardware? It wouldn’t take many to properly get this data per airport. It’s not like you go through different security lines for different terminals. Oh yeah that negates the possibility of nefarious use. Maybe you could still use it to track your personal electronics that TSA agents steal from your baggage? Oh yeah, they’ll have the keys to turn it off. Never mind.

  11. Davin says:

    I have to see that poster every time I fly to Camp LeJeune. It makes me fume a little inside.

    • Phikus says:

      Yeah, why aren’t you like the good little girl in the 50′s saying the pledge of allegiance? Shame on you!

      Remember how it felt to be blindly patriotic without questioning your government? How about: Remember how it felt to not be treated like a criminal just for flying?

      • Machineintheghost says:

        That picture of the little girl looks like its from the time when if you had the money to fly, you’d put on your suit (if you were a man) or hat and white gloves (if you were a woman) and JUST BOARD THE DAMN PLANE straight from the tarmac.

  12. Dan S says:

    They did a low-tech version of the in the Portland, OR airport. When I presented my ID & ticket at the entrance of the security line they handed it back to me with a cardboard token with a number on it and then asked me to give to the agent at the metal detector. They then tracked the to see how long the number took to reach the metal detector. My guess is that it’s probably a lot cheaper to do it this way, then to develop the software/hardware (plus training) to do it the high-tech way.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Half OT:

    TSA Communication


    I think this will work with the ‘Nude’ Airport Scanner, too.


  14. Anonymous says:

    Golly gee, I hope them terr’rists don’t figure out how to turn off their phones while in them there airports! That would ruin this whole cotton-pickin’ idea, wouldn’t it? Dang troublemakers!

  15. Anonymous says:

    It seems like an easier solution would be to mimic what’s done every day at Walt Disney World (and apparently at the Portland airport): they give every XX person in line a lanyard with an RFID chip that is scanned at the front of the line and at the end of the line.

    It seems much easier than using something that is personally identifiable like a Bluetooth serial number, even if it only partial and is allegedly deleted.

    The idea is a good one, but the execution is (alas) a typical privacy overreach.

  16. JT Montreal says:

    I agree with those that say it’s a “neat hack”. Your bluetooth chirp is a signal thet _you_ choose to send. Not just the TSA can scan it, anyone with a bluetooth tranceiver. If you’re the paranoid type that doesn’t want to be tracked, I’d find it unlikely that you have your phone+headset broadcasting all over anyways. Or even have a cellphone turned on since that too is broadcasting your location to anyone who cares to listen.

  17. Namdnal Siroj says:

    Will Google and GoDaddy be leaving the US now too?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Seems like a good way to track if you have a recording device like that Ron Paul campaign worker had. No functioning device, safe to bully and after all isn’t the TSA’s only goal to humiliate and intimidate anyone who wants to travel?

  19. unklstuart says:

    I believe they use the FastTrak toll transmitters similarly to monitor highway traffic flow and give you a shielded bag to store the device if you prefer not to be tracked.

  20. AirPillo says:

    Without trying to be contrary right off the bat:

    What could go wrong with it, exactly?

  21. FallenPegasus says:

    Nothing new, nor even that interesting. I read a few years ago about a high end mall that start tracking cellphones when they enter the building. They are not interested in linking it to any particular person, they are instead interesting in tracking how long people stand in front of various displays, in tracking flows of people, and “people who shop here and here also tend to shop here, but never shop there” data.

    I thought this was really interesting, and have “paper designed” the necessary electronics. It is not hard to do at all.

    As soon as you you decided to have a cell phone, you are allowing “THEM” (for many various values of “them”) to keep track of where you are and when you are there.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the Neat Hack contingent…this to me seems to have more useful applications than harmful, unless I am unaware of the capability to gather, store, and disseminate actual personal data.

    I have been finding myself more and more troubled of late by some BB’ers knee-jerk alarmist tendencies to the implementation of technology.

    Imagine creating two-ton machines which could travel at speeds in excess of 100mph. Now, imagine turning those machines over to individuals, with little in the way of training, to operate as they see fit. Now place hundreds, if not thousands of these machines, all on a narrow pathway mere feet from defenseless pedestrians. What could possibly go wrong?

  23. pretentious platypus says:

    “Chirping” = checking for other bluetooth devices in range (which may or may not be paired ones, so it’ll happen even if you set your device to be “invisible”).

    You’ll need to turn off bluetooth completely to prevent this – my non-subsidized, unbranded, unlocked Nokia phone has a prominent menu option just for that (or put it into flight mode, which should disable all radios). Phones with crippled firmware may be different.

    How much sense this makes if you’re still broadcasting your IMEI or equivalent by running the cellular radio is left to be figured out by the reader.

  24. efergus3 says:

    I remember what it felt like to be safe – before the TSA.

  25. Dooley says:

    Constant Vigilance!
    I don’t know how Americans can live with that kind of propaganda floating the nation.
    I will Never go to the USA. Enjoy your prison… citizens.
    Smile, buy your iPads and don’t let the Homeland Security men hear you say anything ‘interesting’.

  26. ScottTFrazer says:

    Yeah, I’ve got to agree with some of the other folks. If you’re carrying equipment that’s actively broadcasting identifiable information, it seems unfair to expect privacy in that instance.

    • Anonymous says:

      “If you’re carrying equipment that’s actively broadcasting identifiable information, it seems unfair to expect privacy in that instance.”

      Yeah, and if you’re actively staying in public, it’s okay to be constantly followed?

      • AirPillo says:

        If you were actively wandering in public talking on a loudspeaker I think it would be fair for people to pay attention to where you’re going by listening to where the sound is coming from, which is the same thing this seems to be doing… triangulating the movement of signals people are broadcasting (essentially yelling their position on radio waves) to follow their anonymous movements.

        That’s what these devices are doing… they’re yelling, constantly, just on a different medium than sound waves. Follow the yelling voices to track how the crowd moves. How is that scary? Hell, how is that any different from some guy sitting on a chair waiting for his plane and people-watching to pass the time?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Image: “Alice in TSAland”

  28. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, this is not a big deal. You are entering a security line where you have to SHOW THEM YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE before you enter. how is this any more of an invasion of privacy? I’m all for skepticism, but this is a harmless hack that is a good idea.

  29. Intersection says:

    Well at least the still TSA can’t touch your service monkey…

    Oh and btw, all that traffic information that we get on google maps comes from our cell phones being tracked as they hop from tower to tower. All cell phones broadcast your position to the authorities at all times anyways. Its the law. Is the TSA keeping tracking you through a line all that much different or somehow more creepy?

    • cservant says:

      Oh and btw, all that traffic information that we get on google maps comes from our cell phones being tracked as they hop from tower to tower. All cell phones broadcast your position to the authorities at all times anyways. Its the law. Is the TSA keeping tracking you through a line all that much different or somehow more creepy?

      If I remember right the law that requires cell phone tracking for 911 services are in roughly within a city block. Wiki gives me 300 meters.

      In this case, the article speaks of security line ups. You would want your precision down to the inches or centimeters.

      I think I’m fine with this idea. Except I’ll bet after the TSA setups the equipment required, they’ll put up a no cell phone on policy. Thus wasting money.

  30. Erasorhed says:

    Just looking at that poster, I’m reminded of something Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Aside from that – Disney World uses a low-tech (and less expensive) version of this “line-tracking” technology. Ask someone who has just gotten in line to “please hold on to this plain red swipe-card on a lanyard while you’re in line, and give it back to the hostess when you’ve gotten to the front of the line”. Don’t want to hold the card? Just say no. However, this is why Disney is usually accurate with their posted wait-times for their rides… heh, just imagine seeing a posted wait-time at an airport security checkpoint.

  31. Anonymous says:

    If you don’t have any bluetooth devices (or don’t intend to use them in the airport), wouldn’t you just turn bluetooth off to conserve power? I’ve never turned it on on my ipod touch, wouldn’t it make more sense to track people’s gadgets via wifi (which people probably won’t turn off until they board), or just track the cell signals or something?

  32. Anonymous says:

    I hope our brave soldiers are able to conquer Stalingrad before the winter.

  33. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    Here’s one more vote of “I hate the TSA and everything they’ve done to ruin air travel, but this is a decent idea that I have no problem with.” I do understand Bluetooth a lot better than the average joe, so that may play a part in my being much less frightened by the idea. That and the fact that once we set foot in an airport (for the last couple decades), we’re under all sorts of surveillance… this is just doing something with the data generated by that surveillance that provides useful information to the customers.

    There are better ways to handle the whole air security issue than anything the TSA is doing, but that’s an argument for another day… the fact that they’re improving customer experience using information they’ll take for their own purposes anyway… that’s a positive change.

  34. MarkM says:

    A TSA MADLIB related to the quote from the article:
    “the aim is to track how long people are stuck in security lines”

    Please, TSA, dont [verb] on my [noun] and tell me its [verb]ing.

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