Accepted Paper:

Passenger asymmetries in aviation security: The case of risk based passenger screening  


Sebastian Volkmann (University of Freiburg)

Paper long abstract:

Especially since the 9/11 attacks, travelling by airliner means to be subject to ever more intensive security procedures. In order to be able to prevent more and more threats, a change in the paradigm of passenger screening has been promoted by various actors in the aviation sector: IATA, for example, suggested a "checkpoint of the future" that more efficiently and less intrusively screens "different passengers in different ways" based on risk assessment; the US TSA has introduced passenger differentiation and pre-screening programs; and in aviation security research, "risk based screening" (RBS) has become a hot research topic. Although it is often unclear what is specifically meant by RBS, it is generally supposed to allow targeted passenger screening based on "predictive" risk data.

In my paper, I differentiate three variants of RBS and distinguish three types of goals that actors in the aviation sector hope to achieve with it. However, I argue that RBS cannot, all at the same time, provide an extra layer of security, provide less intrusive screening for so-called bona fide passengers and be more cost effective. This means it is subject to various trade-offs. Based on a framework for the assessment of the ethical and societal impact of airport checkpoint screening, which has been developed as part of the FP7 project XP-DITE, I identify recurrent and newly introduced ethical risks that some variants of this new paradigm of asymmetric screening imply, such as less accountability due to an increased dependency on intelligence activities targeting passengers.

Panel I1
Understanding techno-security: On pre-emption, situational awareness and technological superiority