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Computerized Profiling Systems Capps II Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Feb 20th, 2022


Computerized profiling systems such as CAPPS II can be effective when combined with overarching risk assessment and strategic screen to competently scope airplane security; therefore should be seen as a component rather than the center of security systems (Garrick, 2004). Staff across the airport, not just at security checkpoints can be trained in human profiling and behavioral analysis that would allow identifying suspicious actions or individuals. It can provide a broad security reach in the facility and maintain a security mindset and network to prevent potential threats (Leather, 2019).

Main body

Profiling, particularly digital systems (CAPPS), are meant to be race-neutral techniques, focusing on behavioral aspects while databases are built using security and criminal records. Governments and airports can negotiate ethical use of the data to ensure safety Garrick, 2004).

Airport security costs may be lowered with a comprehensive profiling system that requires one-time installation rather than individual and error-prone human identifications.

Computerized profiling systems with sensors can minimize inconvenience to passengers, reducing the need for constant bag checks, rather than only directing people of interest for additional security checks.

Formal computerized profiling systems as well as human profiling training can be controlled in terms of criteria for better monitoring and to avoid subjective fallacies in identifying behaviors (Ergün et al., 2017).

Traditional methods such as x-ray machines, metal detectors, and a small number of government agents on the ground are ineffective when working individually and treating everyone the same (Davies, 2019).

Profiling has subjective elements and both computer and human profiling systems can evolve, eliminating the element of predictability of traditional security systems, making it much more difficult for malicious actors to bypass (Davies, 2019).

Profiling is based on collected data and statistics which contributes to the objectivity of a subjective process. However, using data on patterns of behaviors and characteristics of individuals in the long term is likely to have a positive effect (Leather, 2019).


The subjective argument – profiling commonly affects a small number of passengers, and for most, it becomes a simple inconvenience of additional security checks. The risk-consequence of profiling outweighs the consequences of a massively deadly terrorist attack which have been prevented through profiling security systems.


Davies, R. (2019). Airport Technology. Web.

Ergün, N., Açıkel, B. Y., & Turhan, U. (2017). The appropriateness of today’s airport security measures in safeguarding airline passengers. Security Journal, 30(1), 89–105. Web.

Garrick, J. B. (2004). Comments on ‘CAPPS II: The Foundation of Aviation Security?’ Risk Analysis 24(4), 925-927.

Leather, A. (2019). Passenger Profiling: cases for and against. Aviation Security International. Web.

Maccario, C. (2010). Debating Behavior Profiling For Airport Security. NPR. Web.


  • Margin of error and unclear evidence to suggest how computerized profiling systems can identify an actual terrorist. There is no trustworthy method to test the computer systems prior to implementation (Barnett, 2004).
  • Broad system profiling is subject to base rate fallacy on such a large scale, and such broad profiling, including behavioural will be ineffective from any perspective. The number of actual terrorists is already low, and profiling from a mathematical perspective is highly unlikely to identify a terrorist. In fact, many experts have suggested the use of secondary randomized screening as more effective in many cases (Schneier, 2012).
  • Profiling systems along with human profilers are likely to engage in racial and ethnic profiling despite this being incorrect or unethical. The profiling process naturally leads to stereotyping that would adversely target specific groups (Edmonds,
  • Terrorists are more likely to deliberately select subjects that are able to avoid established profiles, particularly if based on demographic, ethnic, or religious elements. It is significantly easier for a terrorist to mask themselves as a member of a particular group that is deemed low-risk by security agencies (Schneier, 2012).
  • Since profiling inherently is based on classification, passengers are designated based on risk. If reliant on profiling, there is a significant potential of a malicious actor designated as low risk either by accident or through manipulating the system, thus easily bypassing security checks (Barnett, 2004).
  • Extensive civil liberties concerns both through creation of passenger databases and classification records as well as targeting of innocent individuals despite their excellent records as citizens. Creates instances of unlawful detainment and other violations of human and citizen rights ().
  • Waste of precious security resources on a marginally effective system plays int the hands of terrorists, subjecting passengers to searches and detainment when they pose no threat to the flight. Creates opportunities to manipulate the system to bypass it (Aggar, 2005).
  • Profiling creates disruptions to passenger travel and commercial services that airports and airlines have invested significantly to improve passenger-centric experiences. Any incidents or negative press will likely divert passengers from air travel or a specific location which may have negative financial impacts (Shaver & Kennedy, n.d.).
  • Computerized profiling systems have high initial costs, but in order to be effective they must be installed in the majority of airports in a country. The scale is extremely large and costly, considering the profiling systems are updated every few years and also require technical maintenance (Shaver & Kennedy, n.d.)


Aggar, M. (2005). Passenger profiling: Dispelling the myths surrounding the controversy. Aviation Security International, June, 20-22.

Barnett, A. (2004). CAPPS II: The Foundation of Aviation Security? Risk Analysis 24(4), 909-916.

Edmonds, D. (2017). Does profiling make sense – or is it unfair? BBC. Web.

Shaver, R., & Kennedy, M. (n.d.). The benefits of positive passenger profiling on baggage screening requirements. Web.

Schneier, B. (2012). The trouble with airport profiling. Forbes. Web.

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