Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm at Logan Airport on my way back to Tokyo. It was great meeting everyone and thanks for the very stimulating discussions. I'll try to write up some of my thoughts on my flight back.

I just got through security at Logan and I didn't notice until the guy at the security check looked at my boarding pass and said, "you have been selected by the airline for additional screening." Yikes. I looked at my ticket and it had the dreaded "SSSS" on it. Crap. It wasn't that awful. I got a pat-down and a very thorough examination of my carry-on bag. I wonder how I was selected for additional screening. I hope I haven't been added to some list that will haunt me forever. I wonder if it's something I blogged. Or maybe it's something I said at the conference. Or maybe it's who I was hanging around with in Boston. ;-p


I got that at Boston too (and likewise, the full search was nowhere near as bad as at other airports). My friend and I had several factors against us - last-minute change of plane, one way tickets (we'd taken the train up to Boston from NYC).

There are apparently 30 criteria that could single you out, but they also screen 15% randomly:

Interesting. I didn't get an SSSS on my boarding pass in JFK so I guess it is random. Phew. I thought I'd have to stop hanging out at blogger conferences....

Joi : are you sure of the "SSSS" is not manually overriden and not random ??? Remember ,the 4th Ammendment posting by B and your blog of that ?? Is search just pure conicidence or not ??

ah, you got that too, my friend :P I had SSSS for the first time last month when I was going to fly out SFO. it was the end tail of the RT but the date was Nov 2. you can guess some of obvious reason.

besides of that I can think of other reasons too. my trip was NRT to Toronto (connection at Minneapolis), then Toronto to SFO, and SFO out to NRT. this means that I crossed US border three times within one week previously I flew out SFO. I can imagine that the developer of the alerting software might put the number of border crossing as a factor to put a flag on the passenger. your Boston/NRT flight was also end of a RT. it could be same reason if the software has such.

BTW the conference I was attending in Toronto was one of privacy conference hosted by Ontario Privacy Commissioner and Univ. of Toronto and others. there was a invited talk by a researcher from CMU LaTanya Sweeney which including data mining of watch list. she said there are '11 Million people' on some kind of watch list. you can imagine that how many false positives happening at every airport in the US. or someone might want to call it the system is broken by default.

Hi Joy, I'll be in Tokio next week. Maybe we'll meet. Drop me a line
(I'm the journalist you met in Naples... :-)
Luca De Biase


Thank you so much for making the long trip to be with us for the conference. Your participation means a great deal.


I (but not my girlfriend, travelling with me) got SSSS both from NRT->CHI a few weeks ago, and from CHI->NRT on the way back a week later. The check wasn't scary at all, but my girlfriend was worried as it looked like I had disappeared ...

I had the identical experience at Logon this morning as well. The guy searching me kept asking me why I had the SSSS, and I felt like saying "you tell me". What was more comical was that I got used as a demo for a trainee frisker. So I had some kid patting me down, with his boss saying "now rub the torso!" It was high camp.

"It really is no big deal though. When you are used to it, you can actually use the SSSS marking to fast-track yourself through the security checkpoint during peak hours. Just skip the queue and show your quad-S marking, which lets you go through a special lane."
That is funny. Nice idea to use the mark positively.

The terrorism really is a a thing of the mind, all this security measures being part of what real terrorism accomplishes when leaders dramatize threats rather than handles them. It started few days after Sept 11. Pity, because the world could have been a calm and nice place now if we have had a real leader in office with proper judgement.

Hell, Al Gore got the dreaded SSSS twice. I've only had it a half dozen times, but my wife (foreign passport) has had it a few more times than me.

Heh, on a recent trip from china through the states (hitting 7 cities, some twice) I got SSSSed 4 times in a row.

As inconvenient as it is, it's only the most visible piece of security. I feel like a lot of attention is given to airline security that could be used to raise awareness about other, much more important security issues.

I somehow really doubt that they could give a shit what you blog about, or what conferences you attended. If the security resources were *that good* that they could pull aside anybody who is even remotely significant based on what they blog, where they visited, for a search at the airport then there would be no terrorism, ever.

whoever: yeah, I was actually joking, but I think in the future it may go that far. I have heard of immigration services using Google...

Joi: I agree, this could be the case. I made some chatter here on the current beta of Google Suggest Beta. Is my eyes playing tricks on me or is information at the backend being censored ??

When Google Aquired keyhole.. I made note here

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Joi Ito wonders in jest about how he was selected to be screened while flying after the Votes, Bits, Read More