Scientists Question Safety Of New Airport Scanners

From NPR:

After the “underwear bomber” incident on Christmas Day, President Obama accelerated the deployment of new airport scanners that look beneath travelers’ clothes to spot any weapons or explosives.

Fifty-two of these state-of-the-art machines are already scanning passengers at 23 U.S. airports. By the end of 2011, there will be 1,000 machines and two out of every three passengers will be asked to step into one of the new machines for a six-second head-to-toe scan before boarding.

About half of these machines will be so-called X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low-energy X-rays to peer beneath passengers’ clothing. That has some scientists worried.

‘Potential Risk’

“Many people will approach this as, ‘Oh, it must be safe, the government has thought about this and I’ll just submit to it,'” says David Agard, a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. “But there really is no threshold of low dose being OK. Any dose of X-rays produces some potential risk.”

Agard and several of his UCSF colleagues recently wrote a letter to John Holdren the president’s science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks of exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group’s leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist.

“Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer,” Agard says.

The San Francisco group thinks both the machine’s manufacturer, Rapiscan, and government officials have miscalculated the dose that the X-ray scanners deliver to the skin — where nearly all the radiation is concentrated.

The stated dose — about .02 microsieverts, a medical unit of radiation — is averaged over the whole body, members of the UCSF group said in interviews. But they maintain that if the dose is calculated as what gets deposited in the skin, the number would be higher, though how much higher is unclear.

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Dems’ immigration proposal creates national ID card, ‘fingerprints every worker’

I’m surprised it doesn’t require a DNA sample on record somewhere. Someone is quoted as saying the public is more comfortable with the idea of a national ID card, but you can’t tell that from the comments on the story at Raw Story.

From Raw Story:

Democrat: Public more comfortable with idea of national ID card

Civil liberties groups and even some die-hard supporters of the Democratic Party are raising the alarm over the Democrats’ proposed immigration overhaul, which would see the creation of a national biometric ID card.

“If the biometric national ID card provision of the draft bill becomes law, every worker in America would have to be fingerprinted and a new federal bureaucracy – one that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars – would have to be created to issue cards,” the ACLU said in a statement Thursday, following the release of Senate Democrat’s 28-page proposal (PDF) for comprehensive immigration reform.

“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy – one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel.

As Ezra Klein notes at the Washington Post, no fewer than 10 pages of the proposal are devoted to the “Believe System,” which sets up an ID card for everyone in the work force. “Believe” is an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. The Social Security Administration would be responsible for running the ID card system.

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Google Street View logs WiFi networks, Mac addresses

From The Register:

Google’s roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it’s got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users’ unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.

Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he’s “horrified” by the discovery.

“I am appalled… I call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street View,” according to German broadcaster ARD.

Spooks have long desired the ability to cross reference the Mac address of a user’s connection with their real identity and virtual identity, such as their Gmail or Facebook account.

Other companies have logged broadcasting WLAN networks and published the information. By contrast Google has not published the WLAN map, or Street View in Germany; Google hopes to launch the service by the end of the year.

But Google’s uniquely cavalier approach to privacy, and its potential ability to cross reference the information raises additional concerns. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn’t worry about privacy unless they have something to hide. And when there’s nowhere left to hide…?

More from ARD here and Der Spiegel, here. The latter describes Google as a “data octopus”. ®

Heathrow worker ‘ogled colleague on scanner’

This sort of stuff will keep occuring while they keep reassuring us that things like this won’t occur.

From The Independent (UK):

An airport worker allegedly caught ogling images of a female colleague in a full-body scanner faces the sack after being given a police warning for harassment.

The Heathrow worker, named by The Sun newspaper as 25-year-old John Laker, allegedly made lewd remarks to colleague Jo Margetson, 29, after she entered an X-ray machine by mistake.

She reported the matter to her bosses and to police.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said today: “Police received an allegation regarding an incident that happened at Heathrow Terminal 5 on March 10.

“A first instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old male.”

A spokeswoman for BAA, which runs Heathrow, said: “We treat any allegations of inappropriate behaviour or misuse of security equipment very seriously and these claims are investigated thoroughly.

“If these claims are found to be substantiated, we will take appropriate action.”

The new full-body scanners are being rolled out across UK airports following the failed Christmas Day bomb plot to blow up a jet over Detroit in the US.

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To Stop Crime, Share Your Genes

This guy will go far, probably writing policy papers for the government.

From The New York Times:

PERHAPS the only thing more surprising than President Obama’s decision to give an interview for “America’s Most Wanted” last weekend was his apparent agreement with the program’s host, John Walsh, that there should be a national DNA database with profiles of every person arrested, whether convicted or not. Many Americans feel that this proposal flies in the face of our “innocent until proven guilty” ethos, and given that African-Americans are far more likely to be arrested than whites, critics refer to such genetic collection as creating “Jim Crow’s database.”

In truth, however, this is an issue where both sides are partly right. The president was correct in saying that we need a more robust DNA database, available to law enforcement in every state, to “continue to tighten the grip around folks who have perpetrated these crimes.” But critics have a point that genetic police work, like the sampling of arrestees, is fraught with bias. A better solution: to keep every American’s DNA profile on file.

Your sensitive genetic information would be safe. A DNA profile distills a person’s complex genomic information down to a set of 26 numerical values, each characterizing the length of a certain repeated sequence of “junk” DNA that differs from person to person. Although these genetic differences are biologically meaningless — they don’t correlate with any observable characteristics — tabulating the number of repeats creates a unique identifier, a DNA “fingerprint.”

The genetic privacy risk from such profiling is virtually nil, because these records include none of the health and biological data present in one’s genome as a whole. Aside from the ability in some cases to determine whether two individuals are closely related, DNA profiles have nothing sensitive to disclose.

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Now the Government wants competence tests before you can be a dog owner

Unbelievable…

From TheDailyMail (UK):

Every dog owner will have to take a costly ‘competence test’ to prove they can handle their pets, under new Government proposals designed to curb dangerous dogs.

Owners of all breeds would also have to buy third-party insurance in case their pet attacked someone, and pay for the insertion of a microchip in their animal recording their name and address.

The proposals are among a range of measures to overhaul dog laws in England and Wales being considered by senior Ministers, who are expected to announce a public consultation within weeks.

But critics said responsible dog owners would be penalised by yet more red tape and higher bills – one expert estimated the extra costs at £60 or more – while irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs would just ignore the measures.

They added that genuine dog lovers could end up paying for efforts to control a small number of ‘devil dogs’ that terrorised socially deprived areas.

The RSPCA said last night it would welcome a review of legislation which has failed to curb the numbers of dangerous dogs that can attack, and sometimes kill, children and adults.

But a spokesman for the charity added: ‘We would not support anything that would hit sensible owners while failing to police those who are a danger.’

A government source said the proposals, contained in a confidential document headed Consultation On Dangerous Dogs, have been drawn up by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra).

They follow mounting public concern about the spate of serious injuries and deaths inflicted by dogs.

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Cryptome restored after Microsoft change of heart

I seriously doubt that Microsoft had a “change of heart.” The fact that they even pulled something like having them shutdown makes me glad that I don’t use their products. I wish more people would move away from them. Also, there’s the fact that an ISP would cave in to Microsoft (using a questionable DMCA argument) and shut down a customer’s website without any proof that their customer was doing anything wrong (other than Microsoft’s claim).

From The Register:

Microsoft has rescinded the copyright complaint that resulted in the shutdown of the long-standing whistleblower website, Cryptome.org, after it published Redmond’s spy guide for law enforcement.

The company said it has asked Cryptome’s ISP, Network Solutions, that the website be restored and that it no longer wants the offending document to be killed. On Wednesday, Cryptome hosted a 22-page PDF that outlines what information Microsoft gathers about its users and what can be handed over to authorities if required.

Similar guidelines for law enforcement have leaked their way to the website before, exposing the policies of Facebook, AOL, Skype, and Yahoo, among others.

Microsoft lawyers swung the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) in an attempt to force Cryptome to pull the document. When it refused to take action, Microsoft complained to Network Solutions, which not only closed the website, but placed a lock on the Cryptome.org domain to keep it closed.

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