Digital terrorism is a growing fear internationally. As terrorist groups grow more technologically savvy and hackers continue to step up their attacks, governments across the globe are being forced to make some decisions that will frustrate many travelers.
Recent reports that the United States plans to widen its ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include flights coming from EU countries has people, both in and out of the airlines, fearful and fuming. This is a big deal because the current ban only affects flights coming out of about ten cities, most of these in the Middle East. While officials have said the impetus for the ban was the potential danger of lithium batteries catching fire in flight, many feel this concern, while somewhat legitimate, is just a smokescreen for the greater fear: in-flight digital terrorism.
US officials telegraphed the truth of this in a previous commentary back in March, when they said a ban on computers equipment on international flights did not have a “specific concern” but, instead, was motivated by “longstanding concerns” related to terrorists targeting jetliners.
A report in the Associated Press says any such “broadening” of the ban would “create logistical chaos” on the busiest flight corridor in the world. How busy? Well, this corridor accommodates 65 million travelers each year on more than 400 daily flights. These long flights offer ideal opportunities for travelers to get work done or just enjoy media to pass the time. Where books or in-flight movies were once the only entertainment on hours-long flights, now iPads and laptops are ubiquitous travel companions for most fliers.
Greatly concerned with the proposed changes, officials from several European Union nations held a summit to discuss the proposal and their response to it with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While no formal decision was passed down, the talks were less open-ended than the EU nations would have liked. US officials were clear that they plan to make a decision on this issue, and that it would be made based on American concerns, not on EU aggravation.
Industry watchdogs said the initial ban was more palatable because one of the chief reasons for the ban is that the sending airports did not have the best equipment to scan carry-on bags. Machines in the US and in most of the EU nations are much better, so this argument may not hold water if the ban is expanded.
That would force officials to come up with a better or at least a different reason to sell to frustrated consumers. Already aggravated by the aggressive “security” measures at airports, which many people don’t feel makes them any safer, air travelers are not apt to be amenable to “concerns” about “potential dangers.”
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.