TSA airport security employees
The TSA paid big bucks for an app that does very little Reuters

The United States Transport Security Administration's (TSA) Randomizer app displays an arrow that randomly points either left or right. That's it. That being the case, you might be shocked to learn that the application cost the TSA $1.4m (£980,000/ €1.2m) in total.

The TSA Randomizer app is used by security personnel at US airports to select travellers for random searches. Instead of personally selecting which travellers get searched, staff hold an iPad running the app which, upon being tapped, will tell passengers to go down either the left or right-hand lane. By leaving the choice up to an app, security staff cut out any chance of passengers figuring out how to avoid the checks as well as, presumably, claims of discrimination by passengers.

It all sounds pretty straightforward – which leaves us wondering how exactly the contact, handled for the TSA by IBM, managed to rack up such a huge receipt. The discovery was brought to light by developer Kevin Burke, who submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the TSA asking for details about the app. In its response, the TSA revealed that it paid IBM over $336,413 (£235,500/ €295,480) to have the app developed. It also revealed four companies bid for the TSA contract before IBM was selected as the winning candidate.

What the other $664,000 or so went towards isn't clear, though Burke speculates that the contract could have included the supply of iPads and training airport staff in how to use them. Still, it all seems a bit much for an app that could quite easily be replaced by a coin toss.