Stupid security measures in Europe

By EDRi · March 27, 2003

During last weeks CFP conference (Computer Freedom Privacy) in New York, Simon Davies from UK EDRi-member Privacy International announced the winners of the Stupid Security Awards. The jury received some 5.000 nominations from 35 different countries. Though most of the winners are American, Europe also produced some very noteworthy stupid security measures. UK mobile phone company T-Mobile won a Most Annoyingly Stupid Award ‘for pointless and idiotic financial security measure’. T-Mobile won’t let anyone pay more than fifty pounds a month from a bank account, for unspecified ‘security’ reasons. Runner-Up for the Most Egregiously Stupid Award was Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov for the “Propiska” Identity Papers, while UK Heathrow Airport was selected the runner-up for the Most Inexplicably Stupid Award.

In Moscow both foreigners and citizens of Russia need a special permission to be in Moscow, a propiska-paper. According to the nomination, propiska was already invented in 1932 by Stalin, but reintroduced in 2002 as a measure against terrorism. The usual price is USD 1-3 for Russians and USD 10 and more for others. To obtain it officially seems virtually impossible. “You need to fill out a lot of applications, collect many signatures and permissions. According to different sources you are responsible to get a registration in 3 or 10 days after arriving to Moscow. This is even theoretically impossible because registration department (pasportnyi stol) works only 2-3 hours a week and you have to wait hours and hours in a huge line. In addition, any official may refuse you without any explanation.”

A passenger on Heathrow Airport was found to carry a box with loose leaf Chinese tea. Unfortunately, it was of a well known variety known as Gunpowder Tea, and had this printed on the packaging. It was decided that the tea was allowed, but the evil word “Gunpowder” was not. Consequently the security staff then rummaged around and found a plastic bag into which they decanted the fragrant tea leaves, and confiscated the cardboard packaging.

Other European stupid security measures include:

*The refusal of UK railways company Railtrack to provide litter bins on stations (a bomb could be hidden in there).
*Irish budget Airline Ryan Air accepting international student cards as photographic ID but refusing military ID-cards.
*The Danish Ferry-Company requiring fingerprint scans to board a boat from the island Bornholm to mainland Denmark.
*The French province of Pyrenees-Atlantiques allowing nightclubs and disco’s with sufficient camera-supervision (CCTV) to stay open 1 hour longer.
*A Scuba diving club in Devon (UK) requiring a full security check from people interested in taking classes.
*An anonymous UK airline forbidding its pilots to carry nail clippers, while allowing for a huge fire-axe in every cabin.

Selected nominations in 5 categories (08.04.2003)

Details about Moscow Propiska