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Gongs on offer for stupid security measures

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Human rights watchdog Privacy International has re-launched its hunt for the World's most stupid security measures.

The "Stupid Security" awards aims to highlight the absurdities of so-called security procedures that make little contribution to real security improvements. The international compo aims to unearth the world's most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures.

Privacy International's director, Simon Davies, said the organisation had taken the initiative because of "innumerable" security initiatives around the world that had "absolutely no genuine security benefit". This will be the second competition in the series, following inaugural awards in 2003 which attracted 5,000 entries.

Privacy International, the outfit behind the Big Brother awards, says that the time has never been better to cast a critical eye on security in its widest sense. "Even before the recent 'liquid bomb' scare a whole army of bumbling amateurs has taken it upon themselves to figure out pointless, annoying, intrusive, illusory and just plain stupid measures to 'protect' our security," it said.

Gongs will be awarded in five categories: the Most Egregiously Stupid Award, Most Inexplicably Stupid Award, Most Annoyingly Stupid Award, Most Flagrantly Intrusive Award and Most Stupidly Counter Productive Award. Privacy International cites a few choice examples of the sort of pointless measures it is seeking to hold up to ridicule; including an airport that this month emptied out a full plane because a passenger was drinking from a lemonade bottle, to the British schools that fingerprint their children to "stop" the theft of library books, to the airline company that refused to allow passengers to bring books or magazines onto the plane.

There are real concerns about security, of course. Privacy International argues that unworkable security practices and illusory security measures do nothing to address issues of real public concern. They only hinder the public, intrude unnecessarily into our private lives and often reduce us to the status of cattle.

"The situation has become ridiculous" said Davies. "Security has become the smokescreen for incompetent and robotic managers the world over".

Although the airline industry has become the most prominent offender in introducing pointless security measures it is far from alone in its folly. For example, a rail company recently banned train-spotters on the grounds of security. Meanwhile the security desk of a US office building complained because paramedics rushing to attend a heart-attack victim had failed to sign-in.

Privacy International is calling for nominations to name and shame the worst offenders. Entries, open to anyone from any country, need to be submitted by 31 October. Nominations can be sent to stupidsecurity@privacy.org. The competition will be judged by an international panel of well-known security experts, public policy specialists, privacy advocates and journalists. ®

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