Insights: Privacy and Security – Bringing Them Together

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Probably no one argues that security is not important. We all want to feel safe when we are attending events, visiting tourist destinations, or taking the public transport. On the other hand, many would argue that a person’s right to privacy should be protected virtually at all costs. That one shouldn’t have to be subjected to invasive procedures which might also incite discomfort or even fear. While information about security practices, equipment, and procedures is plentiful, people are still suspicious of our behavior and the things we do in the name of “security”.

So how to bring together the two? How to make sure that everyone is safe while making sure that no one has their right to privacy infringed?

Just recently, attendees at a Taylor Swift concert in May 2018 found out they were screened with a face recognition software, which was reportedly used to search for Swift’s known stalkers. However, many were questioning why the concert goers weren’t informed of the screening process prior to the event, or even while they were there. In addition, there was uncertainty what would be done with the images of people who were not identified as threats in the software, and who had access to it.

I’m not going to pretend that I know the exact details of the case, but it does raise some interesting questions in addition to the ones mentioned above. Personally, I would like to know what were done with the images after the show and who owns the images. While some might argue that security should precede privacy in events where thousands of people gather together and monitoring them is difficult, some people might be unhappy with the fact that they were not aware of what they were subjected to. Many probably would have been happy to have been screened anyway, as long as they knew what was happening and why.

I think, in general, people should have the right to know if some of their personal data is collected and/or monitored, whether that’s photos, names, behavior or health history. While I understand that many events want to keep some of their security operations secret to ensure their effectiveness, should something happen, people ought to know what they should do if their information is gathered and they don’t want it to be stored for long periods of time. We, as security professionals, should respect that.

One of the great things about ARGON, Asqella’s passive sub-millimeterwave camera, is that it is discreet and protects the screened person’s privacy. The terahertz feed does not show any anatomical details, or any medical conditions. The camera normally does not record passersby, unless the operator chooses to record an anomaly. Even then, the visual camera image can be altered to ensure anonymity of the recorded person. Overall, privacy is very important when it comes to screening people’s full bodies, and here at Asqella we try to do our best to make sure everyone can walk by our camera with the knowledge that their privacy will not be infringed.


Edited 22.1.2019