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'Big Brother' takes over global airport security
Post-9/11 world, using improved security cameras in airports is definitely justifiable in keeping similar attacks grounded. Expect, however, the debate about where and to what extent security cameras will be used in airports and airplanes to continue
IT WAS a day as indelibly imprinted in memory as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F Kennedy, or the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger. Indeed, who could forget the events of September 11, 2001? On that day, terrorists flew a hijacked commercial jet airliner into each of the World Trade Center towers. A third hijacked airliner flew into the Pentagon, while a fourth one crashed in the state of Pennsylvania. Immediately after 9-11, all US commercial and private flights were grounded. In the years after 9-11, airport and aircraft security was heightened to sky-high levels. Security cameras play a leading role in this war against terror.

The first line of defence since 9-11, countries have poured lots of money into airport security. They want travellers in airports to feel safe from the time they walk up to the security check-in to the moment they step off the plane. In particular, airport security camera systems have undergone several significant transformations. The most effective ones include not only the airports themselves but also the airport’s perimeter and every aircraft in the airport. Both hidden and non-hidden security cameras allow the crew to observe everyone who boards the planes, thereby increasing aircraft safety.

Also, various countries use security cameras in different capacities. In Washington DC, the US capital, several video monitors that observe a network of hundreds of government video cameras, including those at national airports, are stationed in a police command centre. In Singapore, there are plans to install hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout Changi International Airport. The purpose for these cameras is to observe questionable packages and to constantly observe passengers' actions.

Several new technological tools have improved the use of security cameras in airports. For example, a digital video recorder or DVR server is invaluable to airports. DVR servers can be put into various modes, such as air mode, ground mode and parking mode, all of which makes airports’ retrieval of huge amounts of footage more efficient.

Also, a special software can be used with airport security systems to observe objects and their actions in the airport terminals. When actions stray from
"normal" behavior, security is informed. Lastly, extreme security cameras can transform security cameras into infrared cameras. This allows images to be captured at any time of the day, in any weather.

But are airports doing enough with their cameras and gadgets? Some technology experts have argued that perhaps, the terrorists who participated in the 9/11 attacks could have been arrested in various airports. This, they claim, would have been possible had security systems been more advanced. They note that three of the 19 suspects in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center were included on the US government’s "watch lists." Many experts are supporting the use of biometrics, which is technology involving face-recognition. Others are fighting for the use of security cameras in the cabins of all commercial flights.

While the public wholeheartedly supports added airport security to prevent terrorist attacks, some people are concerned about the possibility of technology infringing on people’s privacy or other Constitutional rights. They believe that the situation could resemble Orwell's “1984,” in which a Big Brother government is constantly monitoring people’s thoughts and actions. For example, many advocacy groups are concerned that databases of suspected terrorists could also include non-terrorist
criminals or worse, anyone with a driver’s license.

In a post 9/11 world, using improved security cameras in airports is definitely justifiable in keeping similar attacks grounded. Expect, however, the debate about where and to what extent security cameras will be used in airports and airplanes to continue. After all, matters involving security are not concerns to be trifled with.


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