Backscatter to the Future
While simultaneously defending backscatter X-ray technology as safe, the government is taking precautions a step further with regards to privacy. In February of 2011, the Senate voted to make misuse of scanner images a felony. This legislation should deter any mischievous screener from posting the nude pictures online, which actually happened with a scanner used at a federal courthouse in Florida.
To reassure passengers who have privacy protections, the TSA is also testing millimeter wave machines with software that doesn't display anatomical details. The TSA is also configuring some millimeter wave machines so that passengers can see the scan results at the same time as security personnel, as proof that no one is digitally peering underneath their clothes.
No matter what your stand on the issue of security versus modesty, privacy advocates say the new scanner technology is just playing catch-up to the cleverest terrorists, anyway. They say that because sophisticated terrorists understand backscatter scanners, they'll hide small amounts of plastic or sheet explosives deep in body cavities where they are much harder to detect, rendering the scanners ineffective when they're most needed.
Regardless of your personal stance on X-ray scanners, you can expect to see these kinds of technologies continuing to proliferate in airports and other areas where security is a top priority.
In the same way that terrorist threats will continue to be matched by security countermeasures, you can bet that arguments about safety and privacy will continue to crop up as travelers and government officials try to find a balance between security and individual rights.
- American Civil Liberties Union press release. "In Aftermath of Attempted Attack, ACLU Advocates Effective Security That Respects Privacy." ACLU.org. December 30, 2009.http://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/aftermath-attempted-attack-aclu-advocates-effective-security-respects-privacy
- Bennett, Brian. "Less Invasive Body Scanner Software Tested at Airports." Los Angeles Times. February 2, 2011.http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-tsa-scanners-20110202,0,984304.story
- Bogdanich, Walt. "Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm." New York Times. January 23, 2010.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/health/24radiation.html?_r=1
- Cooper, Brad. "TSA Tests Different Ways to Get Airport Screening Images." Kansas City Star. February 7, 2011.http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/07/2639552/tsa-testing-different-ways-to.html
- Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Whole Body Imaging Technology and Body Scanners." Epic.org.http://epic.org/privacy/airtravel/backscatter/
- Food and Drug Administration. "Products for Security Screening of People." Fda.gov. December 23, 2010.http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/SecuritySystems/ucm227201.htm
- Fuss, Bob. "Senate Votes to Make Misuse of TSA Scanner Images a Felony." CBSnews.com. February 15, 2011.http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20032042-503544.html
- Hamilton, Jon. "New Airport Body Scans Don't Detect All Weapons." Npr.org. January 14, 2010.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122499686
- Health Protection Agency. "Body Scanning at Airports." HPA.org.uk.http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/Radiation/UnderstandingRadiation/UnderstandingRadiationTopics/BodyScanners/
- Jonsson, Patrick. "'Feds Radiating Americans?' Mobile X-ray Vans Hit U.S. Streets." Christian Science Monitor. September 29, 2010.http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0929/Feds-radiating-Americans-Mobile-X-ray-vans-hit-US-streets
- Knox, Richard. "Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners." NPR.org. May 17, 2010.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126833083
- McCullagh, Declan. "Feds Admit Storing Checkpoint Body Scan Images." CNET.com. August 4, 2010.http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20012583-281.html
- National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Technical Bulletin on Airport Backscatter X-ray Systems." Nist.gov.http://www.nist.gov/pml/div682/airport-backscatter-x-ray-system.cfm
- Ogorodnikov, S. and Petrunin, V. "Processing of Interlaced Images in 4-10 MeV Dual-Energy Customs System for Material Recognition." Physical Review Special Topics. 2002.http://prst-ab.aps.org/pdf/PRSTAB/v5/i10/e104701
- Pavia, William. "Muslim Woman Refuses Body Scan at Airport." TimesOnline.co.uk. March 3, 2010.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7048576.ece
- Rapiscan Systems. "Rapiscan Secure 1000 Single Pose Features and Benefits." Rapiscansystems.com.http://www.rapiscansystems.com/rapiscan-secure-1000-single-pose.html
- Rez, Peter and Metzger, Robert L., and Mossman, Kenneth L. "The Dose from Compton Backscatter Screening." Oxford Journals. October 7, 2010.http://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/11/09/rpd.ncq358.abstract
- Saletan, William. "Digital Penetration." Slate.com. March 3, 2007.http://www.slate.com/id/2160977/
- Shahid, Aliyah. "Feds Admit They Stored Body Scanner Images, Despite TSA Claims the Images Cannot be Saved." NY Daily News. August 4, 2010.http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/08/04/2010-08-04_feds_admit_they_stored_body_scanner_images_despite_tsa_claim_the_images_cannot_b.html
- Timmer, John. "The Physics and Biology of the TSA's Backscatter Security Scanners." Arstechnica.com. January 2011.http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/12/the-physics-and-biology-of-the-tsas-backscatter-security-scanners.ars
- Transportation Security Administration. "How it Works. Advanced Imaging Technology." TSA.gov.http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm
- Transportation Security Administration. "How it Works. Advanced Imaging Technology." TSA.gov.http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/safety.shtm
- Travis, Alan. "New Scanners Break Child Porn Laws." Guardian.co.uk. January 4, 2010.http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/04/new-scanners-child-porn-laws
- Velotta, Richard N. "TSA Unveils New Security Scanners at McCarran." Las Vegas Sun. February 1, 2011.http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/feb/01/tsa-unveil-new-security-scanners-mccarran/
- Vorvick, Linda J. "X-ray." Nlm.nih.gov. August 5, 2010.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003337.htm