Tales from CES – enhanced security appeared ineffective, unimplemented

Roller bag at CES
He strolls with no badge, roller bag, no problem

CES and several manufacturers warned of the enhanced security this year in the wake of global terrorism fears. Pat downs, bag searches and restrictions that were to be in place at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas. You can see the complete list of requirements here.

A manufacturer we’ve reviewed before (Scottevest,) even issued press releases about how one could manage the bag restrictions by wearing one of their tech vests.

We were expecting high security, as we were told to expect high security.

The restrictions were no roller bags, maximum of two small personal bags, any bags were subject to search, all entrances were monitored, government photo ID was required at each checkpoint plus a badge, bomb sniffing dogs were to be in place everywhere, nobody would be admitted without a badge, a whole TSA-type shebang. We expected lines out the wazoo and were told to expect that.

John and I were expecting hell. We started walking into press day on Tuesday and were told we had to go through security. We weren’t trying to get around security, just two kids in yellow shirts with no lines around them didn’t look like security and while they were telling us to go through security maybe 20 people walked around the way we were going.

OK, we walked through that without either one doing more than verifying we had a badge on. Oh, there was a cop off in the back, didn’t see him there, don’t think he saw us either.

At the time I was wearing a Scottevest with two brick chargers very prominently bulging… oh well, thought I, perhaps the real security begins tomorrow as who would bother hitting Press Day? There was no enhanced security at any of the events we hit up that night either although these were not CES events.

We got to the Sands Expo center early, once again we attempted to go a direction and were told that we had to go a slightly different direction as there was a security center over to the right. I swear at this point we were not attempting to bypass security, it was just located 20 feet behind the turn we were going down.

Once again, walked through, no check other than that we would walk through the thing. We’d expected wait times of several minutes. For the rest of the day I noticed nobody was doing anything except checking some women’s purses and buyer backpacks occasionally.

I figured perhaps the enhanced security was really in play at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which I was going to be at on Thursday.

There were no security checkpoints at the events later in the evening, although these events were not directly affiliated with CES.

Thursday morning We went to the LVCC and expected a line. John was wearing a backpack. There was a person who directed him to go to a different line for inspection but he didn’t hear them and kept walking forward unstopped. He walked to a wanding station, the wand went off everywhere on his backpack. He was told to go in. The person with the wand said it was ok.

The wand was most likely a metal detector, it detected large amounts of metal. I watched for a while as some people were wanded and it didn’t go off, some were wanded and it did. Both passed through. One wand wielder said it’s supposed to go off if it’s good. I got the feeling this was entirely for show.

It was at this point I realized I didn’t have the CES credentials on. I had a badge from another industry event sitting over my CES papers. Different font, different text size, etc. I’d also walked in with no requirements to show government ID. I saw nobody showing government ID. Didn’t show ID the entire trip except to pick up a badge. The badge backings were the same as the previous years.

After watching two tourists wander into the LVCC and get turned away by a door attendant, only to walk five steps away and beeline it into the event, I was starting to wonder if there was anything you could do to get stopped. I decided to check, mostly because I was hoping there was something more effective than I’d passed.

I passed three people I noticed with roller bags and luggage, explicitly verboten. No CES exception tags. Caught a pic of one guy with no badge and a roller bag just strolling and looking at things (see above). I doubt any ill intent, I think he just wandered in and wasn’t stopped.

I turned my CES badge around. Didn’t get stopped going into a hall.

I put my badge in my pocket and headed over to a different hall. No stop.

I watched as people were walking in the exit doors with nobody stopping them. Sat there and filmed for a while but nobody walked back in while I was filming and the instant I stopped filming people went in. *sigh*

I went around a security checkpoint by just looking forward and wandering through. At this point I passed four security personnel, a cop, and a K9. It wasn’t even that busy. I just walked in. I went around people in line.

I put on the  badge that looked nothing like the CES badges. It should have stood out like a sore thumb. Nope.

I finally got stopped at the rear entrance to the central hall because I went out the wrong door and was re-entering. I still had the non-CES badge on. There were eight people entering this door when I was, and the security wanted to look at my bag.

My bag at this point contained a lot of boxes covered by a shirt I’d taken off. He poked the shirt without moving it to see the contents below, asked if I was leaving after this. I’m unclear as to why that was his question. I told him I had just exited the building on the wrong side and was heading back in.

I talked to several exhibitors while I was there and asked if they felt any safer than when there was no enhanced security. I was told no, that it actually was kind of frightening to think that if they’re trying security now how ineffective it appeared to be.

During my time there I saw two or three police officers assisting security, and a remote pack of several US Marshals. From what I read the Marshals were there to take down one table and unrelated to CES security.

Anyway, the point of all of that is that after making a big show that enhanced security was in place, a 42 year old man with a sack full of swag and no ninja skills could wander unstopped without ID or credentials showing from checkpoint to checkpoint.

I really hope they do better next year. I mean maybe there were hidden scanners, security ninjas, all aware of my wandering and the wanderings of the people with baggage and no IDs, but I wouldn’t have seen that.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts