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You can no longer just leave Syracuse airport [video] (nbcnews.com)
120 points by ck2 on Nov 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments

It sounds like the "main purpose" of this system is to create a one-way exit to prevent people from accessing the terminal without going through the security checkpoint (using the exit as an entrance). It's a problem that every airport has solved in one way or another by either posting security or using existing, novel, techniques. In an attempt to "improve" on the one-way exit idea, they've created a user experience that is exceptionally foreign to anyone using it and also adds a one second jarring experience that gives the impression of being detained in a tall, glass, coffin.

At one of the major airports I used to travel through (DTW), exiting the terminal involved going through a slow-moving motorized revolving door. It was one way, and also included a brief instant where you could neither enter, nor leave, and could be "stopped" by airport security at that point should detaining you be necessary. Because it's a revolving door that works very similar to nearly every revolving door a person encounters (save for the motor and one-way nature), it doesn't have that same feel and certainly wouldn't warrant an NBC News segment.

I'd imagine this over-engineered solution to a solved problem also comes at a much steeper price tag.

This reminds of of a story I heard from a speaker about over-engineering:

A toothpaste company had a small rate of faults when producing the product, every couple of thousand tubes produces the machine would put an empty one on the production line, it would then be packaged and shipped, so every now and then a customer would complain he bought an empty toothpaste.

The company decided to fix that, hired a couple of consultants, and after a dozen of engineers looked into the problem for a couple of months and burned a couple of millions in research they came up with a brilliant solution.

before packaging the toothpaste, they added a very sensitive balance to the production line, every toothpaste would pass there, if the balance detected a difference in the expected wight it would pause the line, then a mechanical arm would push it out, go back to the resting place and continue the line.

After implementing the solution the managers waited a couple of months to see the results and compare numbers, to see how efficient the new solution was. It was amazing! 100%. not one complaint of empty tubes after the expensive solution was implemented. The board was so satisfied with the investment that they came to the production floor for a tour on the new QA perfect tool. But it was turned off. They called the floor manager and asked what happened, they couldn't turn off that important piece of the production line, they could have all the complaints back. The floor manager said he doesn't even remember how to turn it on, he said, I turned it off shortly after the put this thing here.

So how it is possible they have 0 complaints with if not because of the new tool? The floor manager said it was slowing down production, every now and then it would completely stop the whole production line, so he turned it off and bought a fan, pointed out to the stop, the fan would be string enough to push any empty toothpaste case.

That's a fun story told often around a most factories. I've also heard it told that instead of a mechanical arm the operator would have to stand up, walk over, remove the box, and go sit back down. Since the guy was a little lazy he just put a fan there. The moral of that story was "ask the laziest guy how to fix your problem and he'll give you a good answer".

It's a dangerous methodology to preach though. In this story they found out that they had a problem where they were producing boxes without product and instead of actually figuring out why they were producing empty boxes in the first place (i.e. determining the root cause of the problem) they over engineered a 100% quality control inspection on every piece at a huge expense.

In any manufacturing process you reach a point of diminishing returns where it becomes simply more cost-effective to reject an occasional defective product than to solve the root problem causing the defects.

Yes, the DTW big revolving door is much more natural. I didn't even understand the purpose of the "coffins" at first glance, I thought they were some kind of body scanner due to their cylindrical glass design.

As for over-engineering: the SLC airport just uses a down escalator as the exit.

not only that, they've created a novel way to trap people inside a burning building. This is a terrible idea.

Building code would almost certainly require a tie-in to the fire alarm so that it allows free passage when there's a fire. If it's like many airports, there would be other alarmed fire exits, and you could easily go under/over the crowd control ropes if you had to.

Silly, airports can't catch fire.

How smart are these things? Presumably the inside door won't open while someone is in between. Otherwise, I just need to double-tailgate, or simply hire two accomplices.

A large iron maiden (floor-to-ceiling revolving gates, like NYC subways) seems to be a much better, cheaper solution.

The iron maiden turn stile is harder for people with luggage (or crutches, wheelchairs, ...) to navigate. The main problem being you get inside, then some jerk decides you're not moving fast enough and helps you along. Two door capsules move at the pace of the passenger and aren't going to force you along.

Interlocking doors ("mantraps") are a standard and widely-deployed access control device. Here are some commercially available: http://www.boonedam.us/mantrap-security-doors/

The national security policy people who implemented this probably go through one to enter and exit their office every day and didn't think anything of it. They exist in all kinds of secure facilities. (Not necessarily as a glass coffin, but simply a room to which only one door can be open at one time.) Like a turnstile, it solves the tailgating problem - you can visually inspect who is in the room before you let them through, and if someone's face doesn't match the badge they swiped, you can hold them there while you call the police.

As for fire safety, in some areas building code requires that the controller is tied into the fire alarm and allows free egress if activated. There's also almost always a bypass switch/key/code to let both doors open.

A couple of examples I can remember from popular fiction are the entrance to CBS Master Control in The Insider (1999) and the executive suite of Seatec Astronomy in Sneakers (1992). There were a few in the Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider books. There is a mantrap with no access control between the main floor and the butterfly wing at the Milwaukee Public Museum to keep the air conditioning out and the butterflies in. Haven't been there since ~2005, but I remember being locked in it for several seconds before the exit light turned green.

Any Biosafety Level-rated lab has negative pressure to prevent virus from escaping, so there's an interlocking door system between the hot part of the lab and the rest of the building. Electronics prevent both airtight doors from unlocking simultaneously, and you are required to go through a decontamination shower procedure before opening the outer door (not sure if that's enforced by electronics or just training.)

I am surprised that so many people here are okay with the idea of being momentarily detained as a matter of course.

This is not a turnstile, because turnstiles do not detain you or trap you; you can always move freely on one side or the other. This device detains you and then lets you move on. What are you going to do when it decides not to let you move on?

I agree. I am thinking to myself... this is the point we have come to? It is a prime example of the erosion of both common sense and constitutional rights:

1. This is an egregious fire hazard. I would love to see the fire marshal weigh in on this. This violates basic common sense regarding the ability to egress a structure in the event of an emergency, regardless of any safe-guards that would automatically open these pods in the event of a fire.

2. This is detainment without probable cause. It completely violates the spirit and intent, if not the letter, of the Fourth Amendment. No matter how long you are detained within this pod, in my opinion, it is absolutely without probable cause, which is a pillar of the Fourth Amendment.

I assume there's an emergency exit somewhere... the difference being that it's alarmed and everyone freaks out if you go through it. Plenty of emergency exits like that in areas of the airport which are secure and away from the main exit, after all.

Excuse me if I understood this wrong, but isn't this just an automatic door to keep people out of the secure terminal? It looks like they open, close, and then open.

Are all vestibules holding you without probable cause?

If I were a braver man, I would stand in the middle of a crowded airport security line and yell "BOOM". There are so many potential points of vulnerability in an open society that eternally fighting the last war is absurd.

As it is, I quietly protest in the only way I know: I avoiding flying unless it's impossible, and take road trips instead, despite the dramatically higher safety risks. I've come to deeply loathe the airport experience.

Err, you know the "yelling fire in a movie" is the famous example of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment, right?

I'm all for civil disobedience, but I'd suggest something that doesn't actually cause a panic.

> "yelling fire in a movie" is the famous example of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment, right?

It is an example of nothing of the sort, since that scenario never happened. That hypothetical scenario was dreamed up to justify the arrest of a war/draft protester for what was plainly political speech.

Actually, that scenario has happened. It was never tried in court, but yelling "Fire" in a crowded building has happened.


Yeah, I know... it's a metaphor. The point is that you don't have the right to literally say whatever words you want, absolutely whenever you want (nor, I think, should you).

The TSA stuff is bonkers, though, and I think totally unconstitutional.

No, you don't know. As the comment you replied to and misunderstood pointed out, that metaphor was originally used in the context of a SCOTUS ruling which made it a criminal act to distribute anti-draft pamphlets -- a ruling which was overturned in 1969. By continuing to invoke it, you're misunderstanding the original intent and also perpetuating the myth that the phrase has any basis in current U.S. law.

I don't think it's relevant to the point I was making especially if we both agree that one cannot, in fact, expect first amendment protection for falsely yelling fire in a theater.

No, he DOES now. The original intent was, beside whatever political motivation, to give an "example of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment". Exactly as he wrote.

That phrase came from a case that was completely unrelated to the content of the quote, and was used to claim that writing anti-draft pamphlets was illegal speech.

That verdict was later effectively overturned, and the judge who first said those words also had this to say shortly afterward in another free speech case:

"The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out."

It's time to stop trotting out that fear-mongering phrase.

As I said, I'm not actually about to do it. Perhaps just yelling: "If I were a bomb, you'd all be dead. This line makes you less safe!", or something like it, would avoid causing a panic. Even so, I'd still have the expectation of being arrested.

I don't think yelling anything in public is protected by free speech, but it's hardly going to cause a panic or hurt anyone. If he yelled "BOMB!" that would be different.

Lots of people ride elevators every day.

Security features and entrapment issues are the same: the controller normally lets people through in the manner specified by its programming (i.e. assignable permissions to exit on certain sides of certain floors depending on the keys/cards/codes features possessed by the rider, potentially also time of day and manual verification).

If something fishy is going on, security (or electronics like a metal detector) can direct the controller to stop the car and not open the doors.

Once you are in the car, you cannot leave until the controller lets you.

This is just a two-doored elevator that doesn't move between floors.

An elevator's express purpose is to transport you between floors of a building.

This device's express purpose is to restrict your exit from a building or area.

No, its express purpose is to ensure exits can only be used as exits. Choosing to trap the person is an exceptional condition the same way it is in an elevator.

The same can be said about guards protecting an exit, and, in all honesty, security portals probably present fewer risks than guards, especially armed guards, where there's a reasonable possibility that building management will risk a lawsuit to forcably detain someone trying to leave: false arrest alone is better for all parties involved than false arrest plus battery and likely injury.

There are already airports which have pairs of sliding doors with a room between them, timed so there's a moment when the first door is closed behind you and the second one hasn't opened ahead, in which you're "detained".

And practically every subway system already has one-way turnstiles that can "detain" you in the sense that you can't pass until it opens, and either can't return through it without re-inserting a fare card or can't return through it period.

In fact, there's a fuck ton of controlled-access places with systems which effectively do this. What are you already doing for the "detainees" who already are created by those?

(not that I like the TSA, I just also don't see why you're treating this as new or unusual)

I have never encountered a situation like this before in an airport. If I were to, I would be very disturbed, and avoid that airport in the future. So, this is new and unusual to me. (Apparently, also, to enough people to make this video notable).

Subways that I have seen that require fare cards on exit do not actually prevent you from leaving; you can jump the turnstile or go through a gate on the side that possibly alarms. This is not the greatest thing, but at least while you are inside you can move freely inside a large subway system; being encased in plexiglass until a light turns green is a whole different degree of trapped.

Edit: And I guess this is an important part of the point: degree matters. The old boiling-a-frog story is just about slowly increasing the degree of something.

We're forgetting the obvious situation where people are "detained" on a regular basis: elevators. This is just an elevator that doesn't traverse floors.

Have you ever ridden an elevator from the lobby of a large office building? If the security clerk at the desk thinks you're a threat, he'll let you get in an elevator and then press a button to stop you between floors.

When help arrives, they'll override the controls and force the elevator the ground where the only exit is into the hands of an armed response force.

I didn't see the video, but the description sounds like basically every airport I've ever been to in Europe. I have Delta's highest frequent flyer tier.

I've flown into Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Cologne, Hanover, Paris, and London, and I do not recall seeing anything like this. I'd think I would remember as it is very alarming-looking.

In Amsterdam airport they are pretty unalarming, just pairs of automatic doors a few paces apart. From a brief look at this video, you have to momentarily stop, and there is a hint that you might not be able to continue. That's just bad usability. The ones in Amsterdam allow you to carry on walking at a normal pace, and they act like normal automatic doors (in one direction). I'm sure there are people who walk through them every day and don't even notice them.

The last time I was in Atlanta, they had a similar thing, but more subtle. If I remember correctly, they have a bank of escalators, but all of the escalators go in the same direction. As I found out when I got to the top, and had to go through security again to get back down...

I often fly through CDG and AMS, and I'm pretty sure that I've gone through them at both. I never found it particularly alarming. You just walk through double doors. As others have mentioned, they often don't even close if there's enough people going through them. They just have signs making it very clear that you can't turn around once you enter them. I am particularly paranoid/upset by airport security, and they've never bothered me. YMMV.

I can very distinctly remember going through these in FRA.

hmmmm I just flew through the Amsterdam airport about two weeks ago and it had this system in the International terminal, except the doors were about 5 meters apart.

It is a bit different especially in feeling. You walk straight through and most people probably don't realise that they are sort of in a trap. With enough traffic flow they don't really shut (although they obviously could if there was some that they needed to contain but I don't know the scenarios it is used).

Because it is default allow the feeling is quite different to the system shown in the video where it feels like default deny and it asks you to wait.

Yeah you have. Just not physically.

When you exit the secure area of the airport, you usually pass through a corridor with tons of CCTV cameras and a TSA employee. Those cameras and that employee are to keep you from turning around and re-entering the terminal once you've begun the process of exiting.

You are responding to something totally different than what I was saying. Yes, we all know that there is a one-way exit from security zones in airports.

When you are passing through such an area, you are free to move unless you are detained, which in theory would not happen without good reason. The idea is that you are free to exit and just cannot go back in.

When you enter one of these chambers, you are detained by default until you are released. You are not free to go in any direction. It is very different.

I was responding fairly specifically to "I have never encountered a situation like this before in an airport."

edit: the operative word in your sentence is "_like_" and "_never_"

My point is, you have encountered systems "like" this, if you have ever exited an airport secure area. And it's the secure area, not the airport building itself.

also; boiling frog analogy is quite flawed

I once encountered a big self-revolving door exiting the secure area at an airport, and I wondered what would happen if I kept going around it in a circle. Let me tell you what happens: it alarms loudly, and the TSA employee was not amused.

That's scary - my children would do that naturally and I'm not sure I would be able to convince them of the seriousness of it beforehand.

That's good - because taking it seriously is the result of poor thinking.

The Zurich airport has this between the terminals and passport control.

There are already airports which have pairs of sliding doors with a room between them, timed so there's a moment when the first door is closed behind you and the second one hasn't opened ahead, in which you're "detained".

As do many fast food restaurants and other buildings, I'm fairly sure it's meant to function as an air-lock, mitigating the equalization of outdoor and indoor temperatures and preventing drafts into the building. Additionally, you are not being detained in such a situation as it is up to your own agency to either manually open the door or activate the IR sensor. In the airport situation it does appear people are being detained because they don't seem to have the option of opening the exit door themselves.

In fact, there's a fuck ton of controlled-access places with systems which effectively do this.

Sure, if someone or group is occupying a building and they don't want people wandering around willy-nilly they can control access and 'buzz people in' or whatever. The airport situation is entirely different as it is essentially controlling access to the entire world, restricting ones freedom of movement.

So all in all, put a little thought into what your saying before a reflexive "nothing to see here."

[EDIT: All that is wrong, because there is no check, and the doors always open]

Every place I've ever seen one of those doors, when you can't return, you can always go forward, when there is some check, and you may not be able to go forward, you can always return.

I guess, the police would be able to legally create a silo that may detain you, but nobody else can (at least on most democratic countries, I'm not sure about the US specifically).

The double sliding doors are to minimize the impact that the outside temperature has on the inside. These have been around for years and I've never seen one in place that can block someone's egress.

You are correct that many subway systems have something in place to verify that you were a fair-paying customer. It just doesn't strike me as equivalent.

In the subway case, it is there to prevent bad actors from cheating the system. It's lame the same way that people checking your receipts at Sam's Club is lame. In the airport case, you're assumed to be a criminal even before you've received any benefit.

Yes, ironic isn't it? The mainstream media reports something like this, the normally imaginative HN crowd has no response other than, "Meh. No big thing" rather than applying its usual microscope.

Not meaning to troll, but I genuinely wonder if the report came from a different source, how it would be treated, and why there is no one discussing the potential of misuse behind this?

We all know the dangers from our govts & businesses are in the form of creeping erosion, not the earth-shaking policies.

You say that there is a potential for misuse, but could you be more specific? I just don't see it. Describe, in detail, an exact case that could actually happen in the real world (including political world). How would the abuse or whatever happen (exactly)? Bear in mind that a large percentage of the population is mildly claustrophobic (including being somewhat uncomfortable in elevators, which also detain you between floors as a matter of design).

There is no way of knowing who is claustrophobic, but anyone could sympathize with them. it has to be designed to let people through quite quickly in the default case, and no doubt does.

so how would this system get abused exactly? I mean to me it just seems like a technicality, like an elevator 'detaining' you. It seems like just a design thing. (For example it can keep people from entering, allowing them only to leave, like a one-way valve, as someone pointed out.)

I'm open to the possibility that your imagination is better than mine...so let's hear a description.


what I mean is that these things can't possible be "detention pods" in practice. Like, how would that even work? I just can't imagine the mechanics of it. I would like a description of what people are imagining. How do you imagine this will get abused (exactly)..describe the process.

Example: Everyone on the terrorist watchlist gets a face photo associated with the name. Then run face detection software in the booth and don't let the traveler out if it matches.

That is a pretty straightforward next step from what is there now. I am not sure how likely it is, but if you claim you can't possibly think of abuses, then you just aren't thinking very hard.

> Everyone on the terrorist watchlist gets a face photo associated with the name.

I'm pretty sure that even the TSA is smart enough that if they were going to install facial recognition systems to catch people on the terrorist watchlist or no-fly list, the first place they would do it wouldn't be the exit from the secure area of the airport.

Putting video cameras and facial-recognition databases into an otherwise straightforward and simple one-way-door system... is many things, but "straightforward" is not going to be one of them. Consider: hats, scarves, small children, people looking at the floor...

moreover, if the US government wants to take pictures of your face and arrange an arrest, they can get it at airport entry (or customs) which are far more detention-like procedures, and a place you could actually enforce the measure: the guard tells you "look at the camera, please" before waving you through.

So I don't really see the "exit-turnstile-chamber plus camera" threat to be particularly worrisome. It's a poor choice of place to implement camera-system abuses.

I'm extremely receptive to this argument (face detection) since adding it to an existing system "seems" easy (low marginal cost), leading to easy abuse. But I would like you to be a bit more descriptive in that "abuse". Okay, don't let the traveler out if it matches. Then what? Come and collect them with guards, I imagine? This is a glass thing in view of everyone...

Likewise, as someone else mentioned, it would be very similar to doing the same thing with revolving doors, which are just as easy to stop and trap someone in it. I am receptive to the idea that this is even easier than adding face recognition to revolving doors, as these doors are already associated with security, already in a high-security area, etc.

But these very things - the high security - mean that in practice the end result is going to be what? How is it different from scanning a crowd and sending guards out to collect someone at an airport?

Likewise, how is it different from adding this to turnstiles?

I mean, I am just not seeing how this one thing qualifies as 'detention'. I walked through double doors like this to get to high security banks (to my surprise - must have been a rough part of town). I certainly did not feel 'temporarily detained'! Any more than I do in an elevator. And I've been stuck in an elevator. That actually sucks.

I just am not seeing the exact argument you're making, you're not really being descriptive or visual enough. If face recognition is a worry, why not worry about it in every place that it could be applied, where people go through some point single-file and it's security-related? Why have a special worry reserved for this particular situation?

Put another way, what if the doors were always open - but spaced far enough apart that even at adult running speed, the system can do face detection fast enough to slam both of them shut. Is that just as bad as this system? Why or why not - after all, it's always open, anyone can walk through.... But logically the end-result is equivalent.

is it a psychological thing? You think it feels psychologically like preemptive detention? Let me tell you, it didn't feel that way to me...it just felt like double-doors. I imagined that in an emergency, they can all be briefly locked, and no one can just fly out there at running speed. it slows things down a bit. that's it.

I'm just not seeing it. The security nightmare you imagine can be added everywhere, there's nothing special about this system and it's practically logically equivalent to two open doors - would you call that "temporary detainment" based on the fact that they could (but don't) slam shut? That this could (but doesn't) arrest you? it doesn't feel that way and doesn't have that effect any more than any other part of the airport does.

on the other hand it can act very well as a one-way valve, making sure no one comes in past you through an exit-only door on your way out. that is not really related to detention in any way.

thanks for articulating the rational side of this (I had a long day). As for the claustrophobic, these exits (which might save money) would serve as a good warning to them that they should reconsider flying altogether if they can't handle a brief stint inside these things.

We're all just idiots pretending to know better...

Eh, some French banks have had similar doors to go in and out of the banks --presumably so that a robber couldn't just "run away" after a heist. You have to close the door behind you before you can open the door in front of you --kind of like an air lock.

But yeah, at an airport this is strange. Altho I also see similar hand/palm print activated doors at data centers for access control.

What if a turnstile did detain or trap you? What if a revolving door just stopped or jammed mid-revolution and you were stuck in between? What are you going to do when the turnstile decides not to let you move on? Why is a hypothetical jammed turnstile less sinister than a hypothetical jammed automatic-airlock-dealie?

Its pretty trivial to climb/jump over a stopped turnstile.

Its a lot harder to do that from a locked room.

I meant this kind of turnstile: http://image.made-in-china.com/2f0j00gCMTNIYJJGpR/Full-Heigh...

I have seen those (generally larger, automated versions) in airports, and there is certainly a moment in every transit where the way back is closed and the way forward is not yet open. That same is true of ordinary, two-way, glass-walled revolving doors, to serve their purpose as a temperature airlock. I've never heard anyone worry about either one trapping people.

I have read news articles of people getting stuck in those, sometimes for quite long periods of time.

Do you consider yourself as being "detained" every time you walk through a revolving door?

This isn't a revolving door, this is a round box that keeps you there until the system controlling it allows you to pass.

Revolving doors go round and round and don't usually prevent egress.

It can't even be compared to a turnstile because they don't seal you in like this appears to do.

As I said in my other reply, electronic revolving doors can and do stop and trap you. So it's exactly the same.

Understanding that this will get me downvotes, the concern is, quite frankly, stupid. Before you ever get to this door, you've gone through airport security at some other airport. You've already been "detained," identified, and searched. If they wanted to arrest you there, they could (and they do).

If they wanted to arrest you when you landed, well, they have the trip manifest for every flight. You can't fly anonymously. If they wanted, they would have a police officer waiting at the gate to arrest you. And they do this.

Now, when you're leaving the airport, and they already know who you are, and they have already searched your bags, and they have already had numerous chances to arrest you at both the source, destination, and connecting airports, suddenly, a one way door that temporarily encloses you (like a revolving door, or an elevator, or the multiple sets of automatic doors leading into a supermarket) is "detainment" and "ripe for abuse" and an "erosion of the constitution." What?

Please. This kind of nonsense is embarrassing.

Do revolving doors decide when you get to leave or do you?

Electronic revolving doors can stop and trap you, yes. For example, if it bumps into someone in another segment, it will stop and then you are trapped. If "big brother" had a camera that identified you in one of these doors and wanted to stop the door, they could. There is really no difference between that and this.

I have been "trapped" inside one such door (for like 30 whole seconds) because the person in front of me couldn't decide whether they wanted to push the door or have the door push them. Either way, every time they made contact with the door, it stopped moving for five seconds. It doesn't quite make the "most traumatic experiences of my life" list.

There was an incident some time ago when someone got caught in one of those due to a power outage or something. They ended up breaking the glass.

I can see how this appears to replace a TSA employee watching for reverse travel, but what has been created is of a different nature. Atlanta's airport has a similar reverse-travel prevention system in the form of a 3 story escalator, but there travelers can't be easily singled out. This individual door system is a security camera and a remote override away from individual detainment. Add facial recognition (the physical conditions are ideal) and the only thing separating this from an automated warrant officer is a willing politician. It seems out of place to be upset by what appears to be an automatic door, but some forethought suggests this is substantially different from what it replaced.

Serious question: should we not be able to arrest people we have arrest warrants for? Is there a right to flee arrest?

The only difference from the status quo is that currently, you could try to run from the police once recognized and they might not be fast enough to tackle you. But as far as I know, the Constitution does not enshrine any principle of "the right to a sporting chance at escaping trial" - just "the right to a fair trial."

Of course we should. But an automated warrant officer would also be something new...

Airports seem to have their own notion of legality, so at what point would it detain someone? An international warrant? US felony warrant? US state felony? Misdemeanor? Back taxes? Unpaid child support? Unpaid municipal fines? We accept all major credit cards! You didn't report for jury duty... mind telling us where you live now? And while you're here, we'd like to inform you that your ex-roommate has run afoul of the law... perhaps you've seen him lately? Let me get the investigating officer on the line...

Facial recognition primarily fails because the camera is too far away, and at a poor angle. Please stare at this camera to open the door. Hmm, those glasses are getting in the way, mind taking them off? Please, don't bang on the glass like that, it scares the other travelers. Just a second, I'll black out the "privacy" glass.

Anything that can be done will be done in the right context. A little imagination is always prudent!

> should we not be able to arrest people we have arrest warrants for?

For the children...

Yet another reason to be happy that facial-recognition doesn't work.

We're talking about airports, where the security procedures already require a non-transferrable boarding pass and photo ID for identity confirmation to enter the secure area at the departure airport.

If you were going to build an "automated warrant officer" system overlaying existing airport security, there's plenty of places where it would already be fairly trivial to do that exit mantraps probably don't affect the risk that much.

Here's an article about it if you don't to watch the video:


It sounds like it's an electronic one-way gate to exit the secure area of the airport, replacing the TSA agent who used to sit at the exit. Physical one-way turnstiles have been around for a while - I'm not sure I've ever seen one at an airport.

I would assume that getting a cartful of bags through the turnstiles is kind of difficult, and that's the reason that strategy has been avoided.

EDIT: Grammar.

Since it would presumably be located before baggage-claim people are unlikely to have a "cartful of bags" at this point - they would only have what they're capable of carrying on the plane.

Given the massive suitcases I've seen some people try to gate-check, I'm not sure that's such a great idea.

It's a one-way exit from the secure area of the terminal. Functionally it's the same as a guard standing there watching people file through to a one-way escalator or door into the public part of the airport.

Personally, I'd prefer the human. This system sounds too complicated and expensive and prone to malfunction. What if there's a fire and the doors stop working?

What purpose could this possibly serve that is more important than have proper fire exits?

Well think of it this way, I am sure law makers and law enforcement don't have to use them so it's no bother at all.

I get panic attacks, can you imagine if one of those things accidentally locked on me?

Who is going to take the blame when people are looked in during a shooting? What if the power goes out and there is panic? I hope there are other fire exits.

If it was designed with safety in mind, it would probably need power to stay closed. If there is no power it would prop open. But then, I got stuck in an elevator for an hour last month, so yeah, people would probably diaf.

I suspect it's a reaction to the LAX shooting to prevent an attacker from fleeing on foot so easily - similar to the double bank doors you sometimes see on banks in dangerous countries. More important than proper fire exits? No. Just my theory on the possible purpose.

So keep the gunman locked in with more people around them to shoot?

While the LAX shooting was happening I kept wondering why the shooter didn't just go backwards through the exit. There is usually just one (half asleep) agent sitting there. This would certainly prevent this.

TSA quit screening my thoughts!

And everything I said is just wrong, before there is no check for living the restricted area.

I'm confused. I was ready to be upset about this, but assuming they're telling the truth it's just an overly-complex version of a turnstile/one-way revolving door. I've never seen an airport that didn't have some sort of one-way-enforcing mechanism on the terminal-to-baggage-claim passage. Am I missing something? Or is the issue just that it's unnecessarily complex and failure-prone?

Most airports have large sliding doors that are triggered on one side only. Because they are large, and there are a lot of people flowing through them, it would be possible to slip in while the door is open, so they need human guards to watch and ensure that no one does that.

A regular turnstile doesn't really work very well for people with a lot of luggage.

So this is basically a large version of a turnstile, that is more secure than just a single gate, so it can be secure enough to leave without full time guards without preventing people with baggage from getting through.

Not a bad idea, not horrible civil liberties wise, but could be a problem for people with claustrophobia, and if they are avoiding having a guard, it's likely that there won't be an alternative exit for people for whom these won't work.

Ordinarily I'd agree with the claustrophobia point, but I feel like anyone who genuinely can't deal with a few seconds in a glass-walled airlock would never have managed getting on a plane in the first place.

As a matter of fact, my SO gets claustrophobia in revolving doors; she always refuses to go through them if there's another alternative, even the really big ones. She's fine on planes, however. I'm not sure whether these would give her the same sense of claustrophobia that revolving doors do.

Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

> installing the portals has allowed Syracuse to eliminate a security job at the exit lanes

Works for me. Unlike TSA workers, automated exit doors can't form unions.

unlike human workers, automated exit doors don't hesitate to imprison the occupant with no thought about the situation.

these are jail cells, not doors.

From what I've heard TSA agents don't think about the situation either

They are not jail cells. We had the same thing in restricted hallways when I worked my prior job in big pharma. They were used mainly to allow big hallway access and securely allow one person at a time through the door, with weight sensors at the bottom of the pod.

You can override these doors most likely with an emergency button if needed.

On the other hand, that company building was not an essential destination of travel for millions of people.

Have you never used an automatic double-door vestibule in a cold city?

Not one that can lock on both sides at the same time.

The whole principle behind such vestibules is that there is an instant when both doors are closed at the same time, which keeps the cold draft outside from getting inside.

Closed, but not locked.

Yes, locked. The point is that you have to wait for one door to close before you can open the other.

For an automatic door, what's the difference?

I can force it open? Even Equinix datacenter mantrap doors can be pushed open. Firecode trumps security. Unless you're the TSA, and then its security theater > common sense.

What makes you think you can't push the airport doors open?

Simple: that premise isn't as fun to talk about on a message board, and so can't be true.

You honestly don't think the TSA wouldn't have the ability to "secure" you in this device until someone arrived on foot if they wanted to?

I'm absolutely sure the TSA wouldn't abuse this device. At all.

If TSA wants to "secure" people I don't think they need evil magic robot doors to do that. But because this is HN, of course, I can't win that argument.

I would argue that TSA agents are more likely to abuse their power while benefiting from a power imbalance. Stopping someone physically is much harder than locking them in a box they have to walk through to get out of a terminal.

I don't believe you can't win the argument because this is Hacker News; you can't win the argument because of the TSA's track record (and to a greater extent, the results of unchecked power on humans).

The current reporting on these "detention pods" indicates that there is a moment when both doors are closed, and presumably unable to open. I'll have to test one in person to see.

I have, but as far as I can remember they all have small normal doors to the side - is that not the default setup?

Have you ever been in a jail cell before?

Automating stuff is great, and unlike the people in this thread crying "police state" I think it's just a bad idea + bad bureaucracy.

This is a bait headline, its just an automated machine to only allow exits. Several airports in Europe have similar systems

Philadelphia airport has been like this for years already. The "airlock" isn't a single-person, but a small room that can lock a handful of people in as they pass individually through some unjumpable turnstiles. I'd post a photo, but there are signs around the room forbidding photography.

Having just gone through the Philadelphia airport in October, I don't remember anything of the sort. Maybe it's only in a specific area for a specific reason? But no, you can go from plane to free air without being in any sort of "airlock" like this.

The airlocks are not at all of the terminals, so it's not surprising you didn't see it.

Here's a PDF explaining the airlock rooms at PHL (they call it a "secure exit lane system") with photos: http://www.aci-na.org/sites/default/files/tufts.pdf

If you look closely at the metal turnstiles in the bottom-right photo on page 8, you can see that there are glass doors between them. These separate and close by sensor to allow only one person at a time through the exit passage. This room is, by necessity, fully covered in cameras, and as other posters have said, it's a short jump from this into something with software recognition that locks the doors and waits for the armored men with clubs.

Sure, it's a far cry from the firetraps that those glass tubes in Syracuse are, but this method of containment is not new -- we were just not really paying attention to it before.

Saving money by spending millions to replace a couple of $20 per hour TSA goons?

This is just a one-way door to prevent people from walking the wrong way into the sterile area. Today, human beings have to sit there and watch people walk past all day -- what a boring and demeaning job!!!

This is NOT a new security measure, it's the same old measure implemented in a different way.

I think people are freaking out about the fact that the system detains you for a split second in the process. There are better solutions out there. For example, all of the train turnstiles in Japan are set to default-open. If they detect someone going through without paying, they close extremely rapidly as soon as you cross the front threshold. That should do the trick, although I guess it wouldn't stop someone from passing contraband across the gap.

Who schmoozed and boozed to get this contract, instead of a normal one-way turnstile door?

Every single European airport I have been to has this kind of portals to get from inside the secured terminal area to the baggage claim area.

An article I found pointed out the probable root cause -- the TSA is now refusing to staff exits from secure areas, claiming that they are only responsible for screening. That puts the burden for exit monitoring onto the airport operators. Naturally, this cost falls disproportionately on smaller airports where the volume of passengers over which to amortize the cost is less.

I actually walked through this thing a couple of weeks ago. It was a little weird, but I didn't feel "detained" at any point. It just felt like going through a high-tech turnstile, as others have theorized it would.

As a former resident of Syracuse, I think these beat the old barrier ropes, doors which looked like they were from a mental hospital, and a lone slightly pissed off and exhausted TSA agent eyeballing you and your fellow passengers in an otherwise desolate airport at 11 evening.

And there are very, very, very few arrivals (and also virtually no departures) between 10PM and 5AM, which means it doesn't make much sense to pay a single TSA agent for an eight hour graveyard shift for 2 or 3 incoming flights.

Having been through SYR recently - the doors are pretty annoying. When I was there, they had a bunch of signs telling people to go through in groups, which was hilarious as 1) the door midpoint area is about the size of one person plus their carry-on, and 2) the door timing would close the door much too quickly to actually have more than one person enter. Also, the cycle time is pretty slow. Really, really bad design.

This has already previously been invented at subway stations.

Take this. http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.474936.131463560...

and make it bigger. Boom, problem solved.

Side benefit: This can be an entirely mechanical design = energy efficient.

I wonder what the throughput of these doors is, and if it would work at larger airports. My guess would be no.

Because of the high crime rate, most banks in South Africa have these double-door man traps (although less sleek-looking), and everyone accepts them as a normal part of life. Reading the comments here reminds me of how abnormal that really is.

I've seen and used devices like these at various Federal facilities and you stay inside for 3-4 seconds until a guard pushes a button to open the other side. The guards called them scanners and said that they sniff for explosives. These look identical, so maybe sniffing is an add-on feature.

These are all over the place in Frankfurt. They are unmanned and nondescript, it's literally just the door you exit through. There are no lights or anything, but somehow they make it seem pretty clear that it's just to keep people from slipping through in the unintended direction.

Seems like yet another challenge when flying with a few little kids...hope it doesn't spread.

Mountain out of a mole hill. These doors simply ensure that people can only exit, and not enter, a secure area.

There are dozens of civil liberty violations to complaint about w/r/t airports and TSA. This isn't one of them.

For what it's worth, a similar system is in place at the Madrid Airport.

Unlawful imprisonment.

What happens if there's a fire or something?

I'm sure that you can just push on the doors and get out, with an associated alarm that clears the terminal.

If there's a fire, I'm sure that all the doors open.

Airports are not exempt from building codes.

I hope these news exaggerate facts, because every day I read something it looks like the US is on its path to become a Soviet hell.

How does this work with people who are disabled? Elderly people with canes or walkers or on wheelchairs?

This looks like a giant PITA for people with small children or anyone escorting someone with a handicap.

Well fuck, I live here. That sucks.

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