Leaked information about stolen passports will harm our privacy in the long run

fakepassportimageAt the time of writing this post, the missing Malaysian Airlines plane is still missing.  If you think you can help, there’s an excellent crowd sourcing campaign currently underway to help identify parts of the plane, give it a look and see if you can help: http://digitialglobeblog.com.

In the days following the plane’s disappearance the major “breakthrough” that was leaked to the press was that two passengers were flying on stolen passports.  Immediately, this created fears of terrorism and hijackings, etc.  These fears were allayed when it was revealed that the two individuals were intending to seek asylum (hence they wanted to live).  The long run consequences are more gradual, what this means is that passports will be checked and rechecked, we may even see a need to share more and more information about ourselves in order to verify that we are who we say we are.  After the September 11th attacks what we experienced (and are still experiencing) is increased security and screening to make sure we’re not carrying anything dangerous.  Now we’re going to be screened to make sure we’re not carrying anything dangerous AND we are who we say we are.  What this means is that more and more honest and well intentioned customers will incur the greater cost of waiting in lines and having their unmentionables sifted through while they’re questioned about where they grew up.  For customers that don’t want to incur that cost they do have a choice, the choice is to get “pre-screened”.  This involves background checks and personal interviews, a higher and more invasive form of screening.  However, customers are going to pay to give up their privacy, the reason is that they have a cost imposed on them that they view as worse than giving up their privacy (the cost being increased lines at the airports).

So now that authorities have to screen customers for dangerous items AND verify identities the demand for pre-screening will grow and the amount of privacy will decrease.

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