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Trading privacy for security – that old zero-sum game

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The rising cost of air travel might be the least of your worries when flying in the future.

The Washington Times has reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has expressed interest in a “security bracelet” developed by Canadian-based Lamperd Less Lethal, a company specializing in firearms training and specialized civil defence equipment. Lamperd proposes, in this corporate video, that air passengers would be fitted with a bracelet containing boarding pass information, the passenger’s personal information and the ability to track a passenger’s whereabouts. As well, the device would be equipped with Electro-Muscular Disruption technology or EMD, meaning air crew could remotely deliver a shock to the bracelet-wearer, immobilizing the wearer for several minutes. The bracelet, given to the passenger at check-in, would be worn for the duration of the flight and could not be taken off until the passenger reaches his or her destination.

Lamperd claims in its video that, “Given the choice…many, if not most passengers would happily opt for the extra security of the EMD security bracelet.”

Given recent studies that show increased skepticism among the general public over how their personal information is often handled, and coupled with growing doubts over whether many of these post-9/11 security measures actually make us safer, we have our doubts: would passengers be prepared to put their desire for security before their own concerns over how such a bracelet could be (mis)used? Could a security bracelet really be effective in deterring terrorism, or does it just make people feel safer without actually improving anything?

Update from the Department of Homeland Security

“This allegation stemmed from a misleading video posted on the Lamberd Website which depicts an ID bracelet that would contain identifying information as well as the ability to stun the wearer. The company claims to connect use of such a device to DHS and TSA, but no discussions between these agencies has ever taken place. …

This concept was never funded or supported by the DHS or TSA and hasn’t even been discussed for two years.”

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