The emergent chaos of fingerprinting at airports
HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Singapore cancer patient was held for four hours by immigration officials in the United States when they could not detect his fingerprints — which had apparently disappeared because of a drug he was taking.
The incident, highlighted in the Annals of Oncology, was reported by the patient’s doctor, Tan Eng Huat, who advised cancer patients taking this drug to carry a doctor’s letter when traveling to the United States. (“Cancer patient held at airport for missing fingerprint“, Reuters, May 27 2009)
Reuters classifies this as “oddlyEnoughNews,” but in fact it’s not odd at all that over time, additional layers of “no” will expose conditions unimagined by their designers. Chaos will emerge. In a free society, that chaos is an accepted part of life. We stop only that which is explicitly denied, not that which the designer didn’t anticipate. In information security, we often default to deny, because we know our imaginations are limited. But the role of security in society used to be carefully limited, for precisely these reasons.