Student Poster on Ethical Issues Related to Backscatter Airport Surveillance Technology

Given the renewed focus on full-body “backscatter” surveillance technology, I thought I’d highlight this poster a group of students created in my Spring 2009 “Information Technology Ethics” class (brief news story is here).

The students note that while the technology provides a way to thoroughly search more people without needing to profile those for further pat-downs, they acknowledge that the technology represents a unique invasion into one’s personal body and space.

To mitigate some of the ethical concerns, they propose creating a robust code of ethics to help guide the officials who are using the system (ie, don’t oogle at someone’s image, etc), that users of the technology should undergo frequent “ethical/moral testing” to ensure they are abiding by the code of ethics, and they suggest the design of the system should be modified to blur out some of the more personal areas that can often be exposed.

Given that we didn’t spend too much time on this particular surveillance system, and that this poster was created 6 months before the current increased attention to this technology, I think their brief analysis and suggestions are quite apt.

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