Scan yourself instead of having the TSA do it?

Not crazy about the idea of walking through an untested, high-false-positive-rate, strip-search scanner at the airport? Well, lucky you, help — or another boondoggle — is on the way.

Qylur, a small start-up company in Palo Alto, California, has come up with a self-screening machine. Business Week reports:

The machines, which are made of a series of honeycombed cells surrounding a sensor, automatically check for dangerous-looking items and sniff for chemicals and nuclear material. A person puts a bag into one side of the machine, scans a ticket or a boarding pass, and closes the door. The machine then scans the contents and compares their characteristics to those of every item it has ever scanned. The point is not simply match a knife in a carry-on to a knife in a database, but to understand what a knife is. As it scans bags, it stacks up more knowledge about such shapes, improving its decision-making over time, says Lisa Dolev, the company’s founder and chief executive.

But the details, apparently, are sketchy. How well do the machines perform? What’s their false-positive rate? What happens when something goes wrong, as it does at ordinary grocery check-out counters, where a staffer has to come over and fix things? Will a TSA agent come over and grope you the way they do now, whether or not you go through the current scanners? And how much do these babies cost?

Because as you know, somebody is always making money, big money, on these things.

What about the law of unintended consequences? What about the fact that for every “foolproof” or “near foolproof” security procedure that comes down the pike, more unforeseen security problems spring up? Security expert Bruce Schneier has written about this repeatedly.

And take a look at Qylur’s gleeful prediction about how its new machines can be used:

Qylur thinks its machines will lead to security checkpoints in places that simply can’t afford them now. Stadiums and amusement parks are early targets.

Great. So in addition to being unlawfully searched at the airport, we can soon be unlawfully searched everywhere else, too.


Well, why not? They didn’t seem to mind at Coachella.

(Photo courtesy of Qylur)

  • frostysnowman

    This seems like a very bad idea.

  • Daisiemae

    Every time I try one of those self checkouts at the grocery store, something goes wrong. Can you imagine the clogged lines while every second or third person has to wait for an “officer” to come over and fix things?

    And how about security? I used to figure that any item that wouldn’t scan would simply be a free item. After all, I tried to pay for it…three or four times. How easy would it be to simply not scan your bombs, knives, and guns as you scan yourself? Then go on your merry terrorist way.

    But hey! We all know it has absolutely nothing to do with security anyway.

  • Amy Alkon

    Can’t I just feel myself up in public and then get on my plane?

    • Love it!!

    • CelticWhisper

      Careful. Pee Wee tried that and got arrested.