Oct 102010
 
 October 10, 2010  Surveillance

Amitai Etzioni suggests that some of us are over-reacting to concerns about airport body scanners:

I come at this issue as a communitarian. This philosophy, about which I have written extensively, holds that our public-policy decisions must balance two core values: Our commitment to individual rights and our commitment to the common good. Neither is a priori privileged. Thus, when threatened by the lethal SARS virus, we demanded that contagious people stay home—even though this limited their freedom to assemble and travel—because the contribution to the common good was high and the intrusion limited. Yet we banned the trading of medical records because these trades constituted a severe intrusion, but had no socially redeeming merit. (For more discussion, see The New Golden Rule.) Viewed through this lens, I must say that the case against these scanners is deeply unconvincing.

The actual threat to privacy posed by these scanners has been inflated using sensationalistic imagery. In order to illustrate how intrusive this “strip-search” is, civil liberties advocates often display a rather graphic image obtained from a scanner. Yet they neglect to mention that the image is not of an airline passenger but of a TSA employee who volunteered to test the machine.

Read more of his opinion on The New Republic.

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