In the past, I’ve criticized palliative security measures that only make people feel more secure as “security theater.” But used correctly, they can be a way of raising our feeling of security to more closely match the reality of security. One example is the tamper-proof packaging that started to appear on over-the-counter drugs in the 1980s, after a few highly publicized random poisonings. As a countermeasure, it didn’t make much sense. It’s easy to poison many foods and over-the-counter medicines right through the seal–with a syringe, for example–or to open and reseal the package well enough that an unwary consumer won’t detect it. But the tamper-resistant packaging brought people’s perceptions of the risk more in line with the actual risk: minimal. And for that reason the change was worth it.
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