TSA Says It’s Making Airport Screening More ‘Private’


jfk-screener-airportThe Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it has begun installing software to give passengers more privacy when they’re screened by some of the full-body scanning machines at airport checkpoints.

The TSA says the software for millimeter-wave body-scanning machines, which use electromagnetic waves to screen passengers, replaces a passenger’s image with a generic one that will still expose any dangerous items that could be hidden.

It also says that the software’s automatic detection capability eliminates the need for a TSA agent to look at a passenger’s image in a viewing room.

Many fliers have objected to having their “naked” images viewed by TSA personnel.

“This software upgrade enables us to continue providing a high level of security through advanced imaging technology screening, while improving the passenger experience at checkpoints,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said Wednesday.

The TSA says it expects all 241 millimeter-wave machines at 40 U.S. airports to be upgraded by the end of the year.

The agency plans to test similar software in the fall for its 247 body-scanning “backscatter” devices, which use high-speed X-rays and emit a low dose of radiation. The backscatter machines are at 38 airports.

The move doesn’t appease some consumer and privacy advocates who say the machines are a waste of money and represent an unlawful, virtual strip search of passengers. They also are concerned that radiation from the X-ray devices could be harmful.

“The machines are not effective, so the new software is throwing money at a solution that’s not a solution,” says Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org. “The machines won’t find low-density powdered explosives, liquid explosives – or much more than the old metal detectors.”

TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball says the machines “are the best technology currently available to detect well-concealed non-metallic explosives, which are among the most significant threats to our national security today.”

Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center – a group that focuses attention on civil liberties issues – says it’s unclear whether the new software will eliminate privacy concerns. She says the TSA must be more transparent about the capabilities of the software.

“If the software is simply an overlay which still permits the machines to capture, store or transfer the graphic naked image, then it doesn’t solve the privacy problems created by these machines,” says McCall, a lawyer for the group.

{USA Today/Matzav.com Newscenter}


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