Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts on TSA procedures

Not everyone agrees that security trumps all. Some people would sacrifice their security for other agendas. The terrorists are willing to die in order to earn their reputation in the next world. Similarly, many people would take the risk of giving up their lives rather than being subjected to sexual abuse. Jewish law requires one to give up his life in order to avoid engagement in certain promiscuous acts. Although most people agree that security is an important matter, some people would rather take on the extra risks than being subjected to intrusive searches. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided that the measures being taken (though admittedly intrusive) are the appropriate course of action given the circumstance of today's threats. They have implicitly decided that these intrusive measures are still worthwhile if they will save lives. But how intrusive does a search have to be before it's too much?

I don't fly too much, but I can see how people would be frustrated with the new screening techniques. The Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines basically allow security personnel to see right through peoples' clothing. Although the images are supposed to be deleted immediately, hundreds of pictures have already turned up on the Internet. One is allowed to opt out of these machines, but the alternative is an almost invasive pat-down. Many stories of humiliated passengers have been flooding the Internet, and pictures of these pat-downs have made headlines. It doesn't seem like there are too many options for those who fly. Either use the AIT machine but risk your picture being on the Internet, or take a pat-down but risk humiliation. There must be a better solution to this problem than to subject people to these screening measures.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any method of screening for terrorists that could be less intrusive. If we are trying to avoid all terrorist attacks then we must subject everyone to a thorough search. Terrorist have shown that they can hide explosives anywhere in their bodies. We must remove our shoes because of the shoe bomber, and we must endure a pat-down because of the underwear bomber. It seems like security comes with a price tag, and we must all pay it if we want to avoid all possible threats. Imagine a passenger with an explosive in his or her underwear. During a pat-down, the explosive device would be felt by the agent and a further investigation would be warranted. The passenger would be cursing the TSA through the whole procedure for being treated in such a humiliating manner. Once caught however, it would be clear that the procedure was worthwhile. With every new terrorist attack we will be forced to devise more intrusive security measures. With subway bombing we would have to screen subway passengers. With car bombing we will have to screen automobile drivers. With more and more security measures we will continue to lose more and more of our freedom. If we are willing to pay anything for security eventually we will be paying everything.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Craigslist Scams

When a normal person falls for a scam the reaction is one of dismay and depression. When I fall for a scam, I admire the creativity involved in the plot. Unfortunately, the experience also justifies my pessimistic outlook on human behavior, and I continue to lose faith in the goodness of humanity. Today, I didn't exactly fall for a scam, but I witnessed some very impressive and rather revolting tricks being orchestrated through craigslist.

Many people are desperate for jobs these days, and many other people have found methods of preying on others despair. A friend of mine had some success finding some unpaid internships through craigslist, and he convinced me that the site is a great place for finding work. After a casual search through the site, I noticed a job opening that looked very appealing. It involved office work, and it had a relatively high salary. I figured that it couldn't hurt to apply. After emailing a resume, I received a reply that looked very promising. But then a few hours later I received two more emails from a different email address. Something didn't seem right. The first email asked me to take an online IQ test, and then schedule an interview. The second email asked me to sign up to another job site in order to post my resume there. After going through the IQ test I was asked to give a phone number. I was about to sign-up for some mobile content for $10 a month. Needless to say, I didn't feel I needed mobile content. However, I did sign up for the job site given in the second email (I figured it couldn't hurt). I replied to the first email saying that I didn't feel that I needed mobile content, and I would like to schedule an interview. A few minutes later I receive another email from a different recruiter thanking me for submitting my resume and requesting that I check my credit score before scheduling an interview. Naturally, they were nice enough to give me a website with which to check my credit score (complete with a nice place to give my credit card information). I decided that I had better places to spend my money.

These scams are pure works of art. Who better to prey on than people desperate for jobs? The posting asking for a credit score was brilliant. I was asked to use their specific website so as not to have to spend money at other websites. The email also carefully instructed me not to send a complete copy of the results as that would divulge confidential information. I could see someone easily falling prey to such a beautiful scam. And the IQ test scam was brilliant as well. Just give us your score on this easy exam that you think makes you the perfect candidate for a nonexistent job. And sign up for some mobile content while you're at it. The brilliance behind these scams is truly worth noting. I love seeing creativity, and I wish I could have thought of such things.

Unfortunately, this kind of creativity is not making our world a better place. Just thinking that someone would try to scam people looking for work gives me stomach problems. Sometimes I resent the progress created with the advent of the Internet and technological advancement. To start, imagine a world without junk mail or spam. Can you picture a scribe of the good old days carefully scribbling spam for a mass mailing with the pony express? I think words were meaningful in those days. Today, I consider the Internet to be one big joke. The faster we can compute, the faster we can produce junk.