Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All I Need Is A Truck To Drive Through Those Holes

Lately, I've become very interested in flawed security systems. There are measures in place to protect children or employees or air travelers that are well intentioned but just completely unworkable. But unlike most unworkable products, they persist anyway. I think it's a testament to the intention being more important than the relatively smaller threat of whatever danger they're supposed to present. There's the classic "small amount of liquid" at the airport thing, of course, but I've noticed several equally dunderheaded measures in day to day life.

1. During this family leave, I've been volunteering a bit at my son's school. When I go in, I am supposed to go to the office, which is kind of tucked away, in order to sign in. Nothing makes me do this, I just know that that's what's done. Once there, I sign my name (illegibly like all others) and write down why I'm there. Then I write my name on a sticker, affix it to my shirt and walk away. No one checks ID, no one makes eye contact. I could sign nothing and make up a reason ("Amway sales", "fistfight") and write THREAT on the sticker. It would not make a difference. The system is in place today.

2. At another school I'm familiar with, parents are asked to sign their children out when picking them up at the end of the day. But there's often a big line around the single notebook used for this purpose and so most parents don't bother. Those that do might wonder why they bother. The system is in place today, as far as I know.

3. When I worked at Amazon in the late 90s, the company did not yet have real security badges (too busy taking over the world and hiring me for jobs I was unqualified to do). So they gave us pieces of construction paper with our names on it. We were expected to hold these up to poorly paid inattentive security guards as we walked past. Sometimes, often, the guards would be across the lobby and would yell, "Can I see your badge?" and we'd hold them up even though nothing could be checked or verified. We could be holding up any piece of blue paper in the world. This system is not in place today but it was in place at one time.

There are creeps and bad parents who have been denied custody but try to get it anyway and corporate spies and disgruntled employees in the world. And they must be stopped. But there are a thousand really stupid security systems in place that actually make things worse and make it harder to stop bad folks because they fool people who should be in control of the situation into thinking that security is under control when it is absolutely not.


Gillian said...

I have been mystified by the whole signing-in-at-the-office scenario ever since I began teaching (as a visiting artist) twelve years ago. Truly anyone can wander in...although I also do the ridiculous signing out when I leave part just in case there is an earthquake or similar and that list survives and they use it to search for my body (which isn't in the rubble because I left without signing out).

I was also able to convince a school in lockdown mode to let me in because I really really had to go to the bathroom.

And yet I am not required to bring ID for my baby when I fly on Saturday. I might bring many extra ounces of apple juice just because that is allowed (even though she's too young to drink it).

PS Many congratulations on the lovely Margaret!

Scott Chicken said...

Your desire for a truck to drive through the holes has been noted. A member of Homeland Security will be by shortly to take your deposition.

bonnie said...

I recently suggested that a Lexan dome over the Statue of Liberty would be much more effective than moving a line of plastic marker buoys from 150 yards away to 400.

Meant the post to be satirical but it ended up not being funny. Too dumb to joke about.

kbow said...

At my place of employment we have two turnstiles that require badge entry. When the security guard is not at the front desk we open the unlocked gate next to the turnstile and walk thru--along with our unregistered guests.

A few months ago on a weekend a transient (we assume) came up 3 floors to my department and looted the place. He took a shower (using several towels, ate people's food, carried goods from one desk to another (some of my things were found on the other side of the building) and stole several items--some valuable--most not. He had to have been there for hours. He left a nasty ball cap in bag with other items he lifted from various desks.

The head of security took photos of each desk that was rifled...including mine with a wide-angle shot of chuck the rubber chicken squeeze toy http://tinyurl.com/4sh63a lying 5 feet from his usual location on my desk.

There are security cameras all over the place...yet they were unable to capture him at all when reviewing the tapes.

"Post-Google" by TAR ART RAT said...

damn. I could see the Amazon building (this is the one on Beacon Hill, right?) from my apartment window in the late 1990s, rising up like something straight outta Batman's Gotham... always wanted to visit...

scouter573 said...

I still have a blue Amazon badge that says "Jeff Bezos". I received it as an April Fools joke prop one day (4/1).