Airport Whole-Body Scans Rolled-Out: TSA Peep Shows?

April 16, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The Transportation Security Administration recently told the New York Times that it plans to replace metal detectors with whole-body imaging machines, which show the naked body and private body parts, complete with “photo-like” images of people’s faces.

The TSA claims the test programs received positive responses from passengers, doing away with intrusive physical pat-downs and electronic wand inspections. The agency claims the scanning process is simple and only takes a couple of seconds.

Critics of the whole-body imaging machines say they present an invasion of privacy issue, forcing passengers to reveal images of their private body parts to TSA inspectors, amounting to an electronic strip-search.

The additional issue of an identifiable photo-like image attached to a passenger’s naked body, which can be stored away, raises fears that such images will be misused. Bruce Schneier, a security technology consultant, says passengers will never know if their naked images are stored, because they will just have to take the TSA’s word for it.

Although a passenger’s naked image is not publicly visible, TSA workers view it behind the scenes, searching for any abnormalities.

Another concern raised is the exposure to radiation from the whole-body scan. TSA officials say it exposes passengers to small doses of ambient radiation equivalent to that received during two minutes of airplane flight.

One positive result from the new imaging machines may be the elimination of the current restrictions on carrying containers of liquids larger than 3.4 ounces. The new imaging machines would be able to scan carry-on luggage for explosive chemicals and other contraband.

The TSA says the new imaging machines should start appearing in some domestic airports this summer and will be used in small test phases to work out any kinks.

Passengers may believe they are benefiting from the elimination of intrusive physical pat-downs, not realizing they may be exposing themselves to even greater invasions of their privacy of the electronic variety, which ultimately may be worse.


4 Responses to “Airport Whole-Body Scans Rolled-Out: TSA Peep Shows?”

  1. Old Man Dotes on April 16th, 2009 11:22 am

    “The additional issue of an identifiable photo-like image attached to a passenger’s naked body, which can be stored away, raises fears that such images will be misused.” It’s the TSA. There’s no need to fear; you can be *certain* the images will be misused.

    The Germans in the Nineteen-forties called their TSA the SS.

  2. Michael Goldberg on April 18th, 2009 4:32 pm

    IDO Security develops a solution called the MagShoe for shoes-on weapons metal detection – filling a critical void in the market by extending security screening to the lower body and feet. (OTCBB: IDOI)

  3. Jess on May 20th, 2009 2:24 pm

    The link above provides commentary from different sources covering this story. One in particular claims the faces will not be shown and the attendant looking at the images cannot actually see the person being scanned. I feel that (personally) I prefer this over taking everything off and dumping out my bag only to be faced with an angry woman yelling at me that I’m holding up the line when I try and gather everything back together.

  4. Sue on May 20th, 2009 7:38 pm

    Thanks for your comments. You may very well have a point Jess, I always seem to be the one holding up Airport lines as well. However, although the scanning software is capable of blocking faces and private body parts, that doesn’t mean TSA will implement those measures. There are real privacy concerns here that perhaps can be remedied with some government oversight.


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