Guilty as not charged : TSA may require phones to be powered on as a part of screening.
Hitting the news channels was the story that the TSA announced that on certain US bound flight, customers will have to power on their mobile devices to prove they are not a security risk. From the Washington post:
The Transportation Security Administration announced Sunday that on certain overseas flights to the United States, it will not permit “powerless devices” — cellphones and computers that cannot be turned on. Airport security officers may ask passengers to power-on devices during security screening, which could mean slower security lines for travelers. Passengers could also be taken out of line for questioning, TSA said.
TSA already sometimes asks travelers to turn on laptops, presumably to determine if they are real rather than filled with explosives.
It is unclear how TSA plans to deal with passengers without chargers whose devices are dead. The announcement doesn’t say what will happen to a phone that can’t be turned on, or how the owner will retrieve it if confiscated by airport security.
I lived in Germany until 1998, where the airport security would weigh laptops to see if they were within specification. If you added a daughter card it could take it out of specification of if your model of laptop wasn’t in their file, then they’d take it for further inspection. I had a bit of schadenfreude at the airport when I saw a particularly loathsome manager from my company get pulled aside because he had added a fax card to his laptop. He missed his flight and was furious about it.
It is good to see the German security jettisoned the weighing requirement as their list got obsolete very quickly but for a long while, they required you boot it a laptop to get to the window screen. After living through the German screening experience, the phone power up is not that big a deal in the scheme of things as most phones boot quickly or you just leave it on. However, one my current iphone, the on/off button no longer works after about 1 year of ownership. A simple internet search shows this is a common problem – thanks Apple – and I have to do a funky works around to have it lock the screen to save power. I’ll need to watch this more closely now.
What we found amusing here is the unsurprising reaction from our favorite scaremongering rag, Britain’s Daily Mail. While other news outlets calmly report it, witness their headline “Airports face chaos after America bans UNCHARGED mobiles or laptops from US-bound flights over bomb fears – with iPhones and Galaxies top of the hit list”. From the Mail’s version of the same story:
The US has declared that it will not allow mobile phones – especially iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy – onto US bound planes from some airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa if the devices are not charged.
The new measure, which is bound to cause chaotic scenes at airports around the globe, is part of the US Transportation Security Administration’s effort to boost surveillance amid concerns that terrorists are plotting to blow up an airliner.
As part of the increased scrutiny at certain airports, security agents may ask travelers to turn on their electronic devices at checkpoints and if they do not have power, the devices will not be allowed on planes, the TSA said.
No doubt the new measures have the potential to create frantic searches for chargers at airports and one US source familiar with the matter said laptop computers are also among the devices security screeners may also require passengers to turn on.
Chaos ? Frantic searches ? Oh the humanity. Somehow I don’t think so but this is the Daily Mail at it’s sensationalist best.