"Backscatter" X-Rays Give TSA The WHOLE Picture
Security Adminstration will test a new screening system at Sky
Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, AZ that has raised privacy
concerns. The system, called backscatter, takes X-rays of
passenger's bodies to detect concealed explosives and weapons.
The Associated Press reports the X-rays will be used initially
as a secondary screening measure, to check passengers who fail the
primary screening process. Passengers will also have the option of
choosing between the X-ray, or a standard pat-down search.
At issue is the graphic nature of backscatter images... as the
powerful x-rays allow screeners to see, well, everything underneath
a person's clothing. Many have raised privacy concerns over the
To answer critics, the TSA says it has modified the machine to
"blur" certain areas of a person's anatomy, while still presenting
a crystal-clear image of anything a person may be trying to smuggle
through security. Also, the images will not be monitored onsite --
but rather by security personnel in a remote location.
The images will also be deleted the moment the person leaves the
security checkpoint, said agency spokesman Nico Melendez. No record
will be kept of the images.
Whether those steps will quiet protesters remains to be seen...
and is likely a moot point, anyway, as the TSA appears quite taken
with the technology.
By early next year, backscatter machines will be placed at a
handful of airports throughout the country, as part of a nationwide
pilot program. If that is successful, the backscatter system --
first seen in prisons, and also tested at London's Heathrow Airport
-- may soon become the standard.