Full body x-ray scanners are being installed and tested this fall at airports across the US, as well as London and Australia, raise privacy issues. A sample image is at right. Some privacy advocates say the technology amounts to a virtual strip search and object to the technology.
US airports installing the technology include:
New York Kennedy
New York LaGuardia
TSA’s web site indicates that the technology will be used initially as a secondary screening measure, meaning that only those passengers who first fail the standard screening process will be directed to the X-ray area. Even then, passengers will have the option of choosing the backscatter or a traditional pat-down search.
The security agency says the machines will be effective in helping detect plastic or liquid explosives and other non-metallic weapons that can be missed by standard metal detectors.
The TSA indicates the X-ray scanning systems will be set up so that the image can be viewed only by a security officer in a remote location. Other passengers, and even the agent at the checkpoint, will not have access to the picture. TSA states that the agency will delete the raw images, but there is no law or regulation that prevents the agency from saving the original, detailed images.
Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), say the machine constitutes an invasion of privacy as it can display graphic images of nude bodies and its use could pave the way to widespread abuse of the images taken.
In addition, enthusiasts for this technology are already talking about extending its use to other venues where screening might be desirable – subways, buses, federal/state buildings, even colleges and schools. The spread of this technology raises many additional concerns.
Personally, I dislike the technology and object to the invasion of my privacy. I feel that we’ve badly warped the “innocent until proven guilty” premise of our investigative and legal system and we treat everyone, equally, as criminals and terrorists.
I fly frequently, but I do not want to volunteer for an x-ray scan any more than I want my underwires groped or a latex-snapping strip search.
If we allow our fear to turn our airports and cities and into an armed police zone without privacy or freedom, then the terrorists have won and Big Brother is here.