Literature Review Improving TSA`s Ethical and Privacy Standards through Private-Public Partnership

LiteratureReview: Improving TSA’s Ethical and Privacy Standards throughPrivate-Public Partnership

LiteratureReview: Improving TSA’s Ethical and Privacy Standards throughPrivate-Public Partnership

Afterthe terrorist attack on September 9, 2001, the congress authorizedand legalized an independent agency, Transport Security Agency (TSA),to facilitate and strengthen security strategies in all airports. Oneof the aims of TSA was to strengthen screening practices byintroducing advanced screening technologies, which were meant todetect concealed contrabands. However, the screening process has beenmarred by controversies arising from privacy breach, data protectionconcerns, and delays caused by the screening technologies.Additionally, ethical and health concerns have been raised overvirtual stripping of passengers, exposure to harmful emissions,inefficiencies that cause long queues, and conflicts of interestbetween TSA and airports. Amidst these controversies, TSA hasreportedly foiled several terrorist attempts using its currentscreening strategies and technologies. In fact, TSA’s efforts havecreated a culture of safety among air travelers. Some of the problemsnoted in TSA operations are in contracting screening partners,employee retention rates, technology choices, and passengers’privacy. The monotony of TSA operations require some changes toenhance safety, improve customers’ trust, and address the currentethical and privacy concerns. One of the ways through which nationalagencies have been known to improve efficiency and service deliveryhas been privatization. Busch and Givens (2012, p. 3) identify aseries of successful collaborations between the government and theprivate sector during the Hurricane Katrina evacuations and 9/11terror attack. During these incidences, the security agenciesreceived a huge boost from the private sector in terms oftechnologies, human resource, and information. Additionally, sharedinfrastructures enhanced efficiency and improved quality of servicesdelivered. The research seeks to investigate whether public-privatecorporations can improve service delivery by introducing safer andefficient technologies, share resource, and create acustomer-oriented culture in airport screening practices.


Theresearch paper, ‘Body scanners vs. privacy and data protection’by Olga Mironeko (2011) evaluates the strategies that have beenadopted to enhance public safety, after a series of global terroristactivities. The US, among other European states has emerged as majortargets, hence formulating stringiest measures to curb terroristthreats. Mironeko observes a series of security measures, one ofwhich includes advanced imagine technology. Additionally, theresearcher identifies the failure by The International Civil AviationOrganization (ICAO), a specialized UN agency, to regulate andstandardize body-scanning technologies (Mironeko, 2001, p. 1).Specifically, the researcher evaluates the American trend in securingits citizens through the Transport Aviation Authority (TSA) since2001. Amidst the objectives of securing borders and travel using theadvanced scanning technologies, Mironeko examines the ethicalimplications of these security measures in terms of privacy and dataprotection. She observes a serious breach to human privacy, freedom,and exposure of the public to harmful radiations from searchmachines. She cites several legal conventions, among them, theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR), whichemphasizes on human privacy, dignity, and respect for private andfamily life (p. 5). The x-ray scans and ATI machine scans conductvirtual strips, thus infringing individual privacy in an environmentthat does not hold the government liable or responsible for itsactions. Similarly, the author states that objections to the currentscanning strategies lead to interferences to freedom of movement. Theauthor calls for the enactment of global rules and policies tostandardize searches to protect personal data and enhance privacy.Mironeko concludes by making recommendations to new legal, policiesand technical measures on the adoption and use of body scans.

Mironeko’sarguments correlate with a research by Julie Accardo and AhmadChaudhry, ‘Radiation exposure and privacy concerns surroundingfull-body scanners in airports’ (2014), who focus on the increasingairport security measures in response to several terror attacks andthreats. Accardo and Chaudhry are specifically concerned about theexposure rate of citizens to radiations from the airport enhancedscreening systems. The researchers examine the sincerity of concernsfrom the public in terms of privacy and health. Although the advancedtechnologies enable TSA officials to detect and identify concealedcontrabands, they expose passengers to radiations, while infringingpassenger’s rights to privacy. The radiation-emitting systems arereferred to as backscatters due to the small amounts of X-raysgenerated during a scanning process (Accardo &amp Chaudhry, 2014, p.199). In addition to backscatters, some airports have millimeter-wavesystems, which are less radioactive. Accardo and Chaudhry argue thatdespite lack of enough information on aviation screeningtechnologies, governments and other major players consider the newtechnology as more efficient in securing aviation transport sector.The authors observe the need to readjust screening measures in orderto protect individuals from long-term effects of harmful radiations.One of the main arguments presented is the long-term health effectsarising from constant exposure to harmful radiations from thesystems. Although the actual health effects are uncertain, there isneed to evaluate exposure rates to avoid exposing bodies to potentialradiation consequences. The authors’ conclusion focuses on theplanned elimination of backscatters from US airports and possibleincrease in millimeter wave scanners. While the new move is expectedto reduce screening controversies, Accardo and Chaudhry encouragepassengers to reconsider air travel unless in unavoidablecircumstances, since there are risks of long-term effects ofradiations (p. 199).

ShirleyYbarra and Robert Poole, Jr. in ‘Overhauling US Airport SecurityScreening’ (2013) conduct a comprehensive survey of the currentscreening system in the country. The researchers compare the USaviation security strategy against other countries and observeserious faults in operations, regulations, contracting and screeningprocedures. One of the observations made is that the country has beenoperating “out of step with other countries” (p. 2). In Europe,for example, airport operators are legally mandated with theresponsibility of security, whereas in the US, an independent agency,the TSA, hence creating conflicts of interest in security operations(p. 2). They observe failures by the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) as having prompted formation of TSA after 9/11 terrorismattack. Once TSA took over, serious operational and authority issuesstarted to emerge, among them contracting and regulating screeningprocedures and systems. Currently, TSA is mandated with the task ofoverseeing and recruiting screening companies, instead of allowingairports to select their screening partners. Amid the conflicts, oneindisputable fact has emerged efficiency of the private operators.Whereas The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has noted limitedflexibility of private companies over screening variables,privatization has been identified as one of the most cost-effectivescreening solutions (Ybarra &amp Poole, 2013, p. 4). Similarly, theprivate sector has proved to be better employers based on theirretention rates compared to TSA screening. This means thatprivate-public partnership improves services as well as saving coststhrough high retention rates compared to TSA-only operations. Ananalysis of cost savings after contract screening influences the needto engage in private-public partnerships as well as changing theconflicting policies that empower TSA rather than airports on mattersof passenger and baggage screening (Ybarra &amp Poole, 2013, p. 5).

Ybarraand Poole’s findings on cost effectiveness of TSA screeningmeasures are developed further by Mark Stewart and John Mueller in‘Cost-benefit analysis of airport security: Are airports too safe?’(2014), who investigate the cost-effectiveness of advanced screeningoperations in airports. Airports are some of the most protectedtransport facilities, especially after 9/11 terrorist attacks.Despite the high levels of protection and screening procedures,citizens are still vulnerable to attacks in other assembly andcongested areas, for example, stadiums (Stewart &amp Mueller, 2014,p. 19). The research follows a risk-based theory that identifies theseverity of attacks based on threats, vulnerability and consequences.A mathematical computation of costs-effectiveness of securitymeasures gives a high uncertainty of predicting probability ofthreats. Stewart and Mueller consider four theoretical scenarios toestimate threat probability and conduct a cost-benefit analysis bygradually introducing several risk mitigation measures at which theydiscover accruing expenses with each additional security measure.After quantifying the separate enhanced security measures, theresearchers find the current security scenario in airportsexaggerated. In addition to the exaggeration, they observe seriouspassenger inconveniences and dissatisfactions generated by the TSAscreening procedures. One of the best solutions to the currentairport security operations is to invest in better equipments, morepersonnel and expanded search counters to increase efficiency andreduce exposure to risks in airports. Although airports have beenpreviously targeted by terrorists, the risk assessment demonstratesthat exposure rate of airports is low compared to other transportfacilities.

Asolution to the cost-benefit analysis and current TSA shortfalls areaddressed by Nathan Busch and Austen Givens in ‘Public-PrivatePartnerships in Homeland Security: Opportunities and Challenges’(2012), through an evaluation of private-public efficiencies. Theyexamine the public-private partnership in Homeland security from the19thcentury to date. Some notable success stories include 9/11 andKatrina evacuations, where both groups demonstrated efficiency andeffectiveness while working together (p. 3). Some of the benefitsinclude resource utilization, where physical and human resources areselected from both sides for enhanced service delivery. Technologicalinnovations have been noted to increase effectiveness by allowing themost advanced party to share their technologies doe enhancedservices. Trust is also build through reduced skepticism and blames,while human resource is improved through increased retentionstrategies and effective recruitment processes. Despite thesebenefits, the authors identify various challenges, among thembureaucracy, cost overruns, and unmet cooperation expectations, amongothers. Busch and Givens observe the need to develop sustainablesolutions by engaging resources and skills from both the governmentand business sector (p. 13). The aim is to transform homelandsecurity without compromising on efficiency and expectations. Ifskills, competencies and knowledge are transformed from businesssector to the government with appropriate financial incentives, thereare opportunities for growth and sustainability between the twogroups. The government needs to enhance its financial package inorder to encourage private participation in securing airports andother transport facilities. They identify potential growth andimprovements in the transport sector if private sector workedcollaboratively with the government agencies by providing human andphysical resource and technology, while the TSA offers necessaryinfrastructures and financial incentives to the private sector (Busch&amp Givens, 2012, p. 19).


Accardo,J., &amp Chaudhry, M. A. (2014). Radiation exposure and privacyconcerns surrounding full-body scanners in airports.&nbspJournalof Radiation Research and Applied Sciences,&nbsp7(2),198-200.

Busch,N. E., &amp Givens, A. D. (2012). Public-Private Partnerships inHomeland Security Opportunities and Challenges.Homeland Security Affairs, 8(18), 1-25.

Mironenko,O. (2011). Body scanners versus privacy and data protection.Computer Law &amp Security Review,&nbsp27(3),232-244.

Stewart,M. G., &amp Mueller, J. (2014). Cost-benefit analysis of airportsecurity: Are airports too safe?&nbspJournalof Air Transport Management,&nbsp35,19-28.

Ybarra,S., &amp Poole Jr, R. W. (2013). Overhauling US Airport SecurityScreening.&nbspReasonFoundation,3, 1-6.

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