Wired magazine carried a piece titled Feds Say Airport Body Scanners are ‘Minimally Intrusive.’ Just to make sure the euphemism is not lost on us, Wired carried the following photograph:
Body Scan

Why is the government getting so paranoid? Many people cite national security concerns. Noted write Nassim Taleb in his book, The Black Swan, reminds us how, by definition, rare catastrophic events cannot be planned for. If someone had pushed for excessive security, requiring lots of tax dollars, such a person would have been shouted out before 9/11. After 9/11, excessive security is what everyone wants in the government, thereby taking attention away from other ways terrorists might want to strike. While some security may be deemed necessary, the way in which these decisions get made seem more like knee-jerk reactions rather than well-though out responses. I am a big believer of balancing out “Don’t just stand there, do something” with “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

Following the latter philosophy, we find ourselves wondering if the government really needs to be in the business of airport security. Can it be handled through voluntary mechanisms? For starters, what if the airlines were given more control over their customer experience including the security check? They could be required to be liable for massive amounts should passengers die due to a security breach, not that different from current liabilities surrounding airline crashes, and perhaps even more for those on the ground hurt by plane crashes. In order to not carry such massive liabilities, airline companies would have to get insurance. The insurance companies would do their best to make sure the safety protocols are in place, and that the airline is not trying to cut a corner, in order to reduce their own exposure. Thereby, by an entirely voluntary mechanism, both the insurance company and the airline would keep each other on their toes, one scrutinizing the other for safety, and the other trying to keep the process efficient.

This way, different airlines can go to different lengths depending on how paranoid they are. Some can do full-body scans, while others can compete with less-invasive forms of security checks. Passengers can decide which form of security they are ok with.

That sounds simple enough. But how would our airports look with such a system? Right now, we have a centralized security-check system, shared by everyone. Perhaps instead of a single checkpoint, there could be a couple, each one catering to a group of airlines, through a privately sourced service provider.

This is offered not as a silver bullet, but as a seed for further brainstorming.