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oct 29 2008

Is the TSA violating your privacy with its new body scanning machines?

(Courtesy Der Spiegel)
(Courtesy Der Spiegel)

"Virtual strip searches" are currently being done using full-body scanners at Los Angeles International, JFK, Baltimore-Washington International, Miami, and many other airports.

Passengers are randomly selected to step into the machines. The scanning process takes about 40 seconds. You make two quick poses. One with your arms up and the other with them down.

But late last week, Germany decided that it would not allow its airports to use full-body scanners. And many other people are concerned that these scanners are an invasion of privacy. What do you think? At the right is a sample photo, one of many posted by Der Spiegel.

UPDATE Oct. 30, 3:41 p.m. In response to reader comments about the safety of these scanners, I want to add that the TSA and the machine manufacturers told Aviation.com that, "the amount of radiation during the scan is equal to 15 minutes of exposure to natural background radiation on a sunny day." That is significantly less than a traditional X-ray.

UPDATE Oct. 31, 9:50 a.m. A TSA spokesperson has responded to our blog post with the following comment:

Blogger Bob here from the TSA Eos Blog. I wanted to clear some things up. These are not the images that our officers see. To read more about the technology and to see the correct images, please go here. Importantly, we've designed the program not to retain any image created and to prevent the [officer] looking at the image from being able to see the individual being screened. The TSA website also contains information on this and other programs your readers might be interested in.
Thanks, Bob TSA Evolution of Security Blog Team

My response is that you go, as Bob suggests, to see the image examples on the TSA blog page. Are they really that less invasive? You be the judge!

[hat tip to BoingBoing]

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


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