TSA paid $1.4 million for this useless iPad app that randomly chooses left or right

TSA paid $1.4 million for this useless iPad app that randomly chooses left or right

When someone starts learning how to code, one of the first things they create is a program that generates and outputs random numbers. In most cases it’s an incredibly simple program to make because your programming language of choice has a randomizing function available to use.

Keeping the above in mind, I now turn your attention to the Transport Security Administration and the Randomizer app they use every day. If you’ve traveled through US airports in recent years then you’re well aware of the TSA Pre-Check lanes. It is a faster way to get through airport security for low-risk travelers, and allows you to keep your shoes and belt on.

TSA Pre-Check is faster, but it also includes random searches and that’s where the Randomizer app comes in. The app randomly chooses whether travelers go left or right in the Pre-Check lane. That way, nobody can predict which lane each person is assigned to and therefore can’t figure out how to avoid the random checks.

Here’s the app in action:

So how much did the TSA pay to have the Randomizer iPad app developed? At least $336,413.59.

That’s $336,413.59 for an app that does nothing more than randomly select left or right a few hundred times an hour.

We know this thanks to developer Kevin Burke, who submitted a Freedom of Information Act request asking for details about the app. And if you think paying over $336,000 for an app like this is ridiculous, well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The contract for the TSA Randomizer app was won by IBM. The total paid for the project is actually $1.4 million, but the cost is not broken down in the documents Burke received in response to his request. It could be IBM supplied all the iPads and training as well as the app itself. Even so, the cost of the project is crazy. It’s an app that is just randomly selects left or right.

I understand that software used for security checks at airports must be rigorously tested and reviewed, but I have a hard time believing such checks cost $1.4 million. In fact, I’m sure there’s many reputable developers out there who’d supply the TSA with the same app for a few thousand dollars.


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