Technology and the Transportation Security Administration An Ethical Legal and Practical
Passed into law on November 19, 2001 under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the TSA now works under the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Department of Transportation, under which it was originally created. Charged specifically with the duties of maintaining airline security in order to prevent an attack similar to those on September 11th, the TSA operates primarily in airports that serve many travelers per day. Regardless of these other responsibilities, TSA’s most visible role is in screening and vetting airline passengers before allowing them into the airport terminal (Reid, 2011, p. 86). However, the TSA also represents the safety interests of railroads, buses, mass transit, highways, ports, pipelines, and other national and state-level modes of transportation, which is part of the purpose of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001.
Recently, technologies involved in fulfilling these duties to airline passenger safety have increased in scope, including the recent addition of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), which poses various ethical, legal, and practical implications that will be analyzed shortly. The TSA intends for these new technologies to be used on a large scale to detect possible threats to aircraft. Debates about the intrusiveness of these technologies on the privacy of airline passengers often bring two different perspectives: those who favor privacy and those who favor security. Through an analysis of the alleged problems inherent to the new body scanning technologies, it will be seen that these technologies do not pose a threat to privacy and, in fact, serve a higher moral value: that of saving human lives. The Moral Issues: Violations of a Right to Privacy The TSA began developing advanced imaging technology (AIT) in 2007 as a means of simplifying the body scanning process (Rodrigues &. Cusick, 2011, p. 290). However, although it is intentioned to protect passengers, some critics believe that the technologies do not protect privacy (Vijayan, 2010). This kind of opposition to body scanning technology is based on a moral evaluation: the TSA ought not to employ such technologies because it inherently detracts from an important human value. To approach this issue rationally, one must first define what it would mean for a piece of technology to be immoral. First, clearly no technology is “inherently” immoral. if the TSA body scanners were used for an unrelated purpose, such as seeing inside a suspicious package, there would be no such claims that it is immoral. Instead, it is claimed that the TSA body scanners are unethical because they violate a fundamental human value: the supposed right to privacy (Gartenstein-Ross, 2011). It is unclear whether such a right to privacy actually exists, especially when that right conflicts with the rights of others to live. If, for the sake of