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uni'wissen 1-2013_ENG

“Designers can set up a checkpoint with a virtual toolbox” One’s own naked body, exposed on a screen for all to see, the staff at the checkpoint and the passengers waiting in line: For many passen­ gers the notion of such a scenario was simply too much. It therefore comes as little surprise that the initial test phase of the so­called full body scanner, a technology designed to make dangerous objects visible and thus increase air safety, gave rise to nationwide protests in 2010. “It was the right debate at the right time,” says doctoral candidate Sebastian Volkmann from the Centre for Security and Society, a research insti­ tute at the University of Freiburg that conducts interdisciplinary research on security. “The secu­ rity measures keep getting more rigorous, costs and operating requirements are on the rise, and there is a broad national debate on the increas­ ing violations of the private sphere,” says the philosopher of the loss of moderation at airport security checkpoints. The EU­sponsored research project “Acceler­ ated Checkpoint Design, Integration, Test and Evaluation,” or XP­DITE for short, aims to coun­ teract this trend. The goal of the project is to find an approach that enables a balance between security, ethics, and costs at check­ points. 13 airlines, technology companies, and public research institutions are working together to develop a computer program to analyze the security checkpoints, appraise the consequences of the use of technology at them, and propose alternatives. “Designers can set up a checkpoint with a virtual toolbox,” explains Volkmann. “The program then gives them an estimate of how high the security level is, how many passengers can be handled, how much it will cost, and how high the ethical consequences will be.” What’s new about this approach is that it doesn’t just consider the individual measures and devices but takes the entire checkpoint into account. However, it is first necessary to work out the foundations: In cooperation with his supervisor Prof. Dr. Hans­Helmuth Gander, director of the Husserl Archive at the University of Freiburg, Volkmann is conducting ethical research for the project at the Centre for Security and Society and is developing evaluation criteria for use with security technologies. The focus of XP­DITE is narrowly defined. While the airline collects passenger data at the check­in counter and the border control and customs authorities are in charge of entry re­ quirements and the import of goods, the check­ point only has two functions, says Volkmann: “On the one hand it is supposed to reveal things that are not openly visible – with the aim of iden­ tifying dangerous objects. On the other hand it restricts entry to the gates so that only passen­ gers who do not have such objects can fly.” Checkpoints at European airports currently con­ sist of several lines situated next to one another. Passengers generally have to have their hand luggage, jackets, and any metal objects they are carrying screened by an x­ray detector. They themselves have to walk through a gate­shaped metal detector. If something sets off the alarm on one of these devices, the security personnel conduct further electronic inspections or inter­ vene physically – for instance by opening the bag in question or frisking the passenger. In the coming years these measures could be joined by new technologies, such as devices for detec­ ting explosives. These technologies either screen luggage and bodies or collect particles on their surface for subsequent analysis. Biometric Data Awaken Desires The new technologies are designed to increase security, but they will also make the security checks more expensive and perhaps also more time consuming. The researchers from XP­DITE are thus also studying two alter­ native models for setting up checkpoints that are currently under discussion among politicians and researchers. One of them involves distribut­ ing detectors at various stations along the way to the gates. In this way, not every line would have to be equipped with all of the expensive – but in some cases only rarely used – devices. “The sequence of stations would have to be 13