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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Washington Post: TSA to pull revealing scanners from airports

    The Washington Post reports that the Transportation Security Administration will remove certain types of body scanners from airports because of privacy questions:

    The Transportation Security Administration will remove 174 full-body scanners from airport security checkpoints, ending a $40 million contract for the machines, which caused a uproar because they revealed spectral naked forms of passengers.

    TSA Administrator John S. Pistole issued the order this week after concluding that new software that made the machines less intrusive could not be developed by a June 1 deadline mandated by Congress.

    Public outcry over heightened airport security checks, fueled by viral videos of small children being frisked and of a man warning a TSA agent, “Don’t touch my junk,” made the scanner and pat-down controversy fodder for late-night television comedians. [...]

    The machines, in use at the Washington area’s three major airports, caused a furor when they went into service in 2010 because of the revealing images they transmitted to backroom TSA surveillance personnel and because people who refused to submit to them were subject to a thorough frisking. [...]

    When Pistole refused to budge, Congress appended legislation to a transportation bill requiring the TSA to develop less-revealing software for its machines.

    The agency was successful in developing that for one type of scanner, the kind that looks like a glass closet and uses millimeter wave technology. [...]

    But the agency had no success in creating similar software for 250 machines — 174 of them in service and 76 in warehouses — that use X-ray backscatter technology. [...]

    The backscatter machines have been banned in Europe over concerns that their radiation was a health risk for passengers. Similar concerns were raised in the United States, but they were dismissed by the TSA.

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