New Security Scanners Leave Little to the Imagination

Posted March 5, 2009 by Carl Unger

Tech_mwave As the old saying goes, "If you've got it, flaunt it." That may be the thinking behind the TSA's new security scanners, which uses a high-tech imaging system to reveal what passengers have hiding beneath their clothes. The technology, called millimeter wave imaging, can detect non-metallic items such as plastic weapons and liquid explosives, which conventional metal detectors miss. And the new machines work well, meaning flying will be theoretically safer once they are fully implemented. But there's a catch: These machines can see everything beneath a passengers clothes, and I mean everything.

Needless to say, such a revealing form of passenger screening has brought outcry, notably from the ACLU and other privacy advocates. And who can blame them? Most people don't disrobe in the airport, and these machines effectively force you to do so. But the TSA claims passengers' privacy is protected because the screeners viewing the images can neither save the image nor see the passengers' faces.

Still, the idea of a TSA screener seeing a black-and-white image of your bits and pieces is too much for some people to bear. As of now, passengers can refuse to use the machine and choose the metal detector instead, though the TSA says these passengers may require a pat-down following the metal detector. After all, a person refusing such a thorough search could be trying to protect something, even if it's just their dignity.

What do you think about the TSA's new technology? Is your privacy worth sacrificing in the name of security, or is this an unfairly harsh way to treat innocent passengers? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Thanks!

(Photo: TSA)

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Reader Comments

These machines take too long. My husband had to go into one in Miami recently and I had to "catch" my things as well as his. No one was watching his and did not even question me taking all those things. Another great opportunity for thieves!

Posted on March 05, 2009 at 12:56 PM by Joanne

I think anytime you give absolute power over others, even if it's only in a particular setting, you're playing with fire. Is there a compelling reason to adopt this new technology? I mean, it's not like the TSA has failed with its current procedures. I'm with the privacy advocates.

Posted on March 05, 2009 at 03:16 PM by Bob Forappilz

This machine will valiate a person's right to privacy which is a constitutional right. This type of machine is by law unconstitutional.

Posted on March 05, 2009 at 08:26 PM by Mary Dahlia

As a constitutional lawyer, I can assure Mary Dahlia that she is mistaken. These machines may or may not violate a person's privacy (I happen to think they do not), but they are not remotely unconstitutional.

Posted on March 07, 2009 at 01:35 AM by Ellie

Have the other methods failed? Why the rampant march towards no privacy? This is not the America I grew up with.

Dont just hand away your privacy people. Fight back. There is no reason to trust some stranger with your naked image. This is just another step in the wrong direction from a scared nation and world.


whats wrong with the current procedures?

whats next? psych test to ride in a plane?

Dont live in fear.

Give me liberty or give me death.

Posted on March 10, 2009 at 02:34 PM by Chuck

How foolish ... Americans are led to believe that security measures like taking off your shoes will keep us safe from terrorists when everyday hundreds of Mexicans cross the border illegally. Don't you imagine terrorists are smart enough to use that same route?

Posted on March 11, 2009 at 07:38 PM by Tom R

Personnally this is way too much punishment to the innocent for the number of baddies out there,well now you know were our tax dollars go. I believe there are two levels of security one for bad people who like to blow up planes and the other innocent people. Severe reliance on machinery is not going to stop those really bad people but innocent people should get sick and tired of being the target of all the tiresome gadgets and time wasting, privacy invading, dignity screvelling, honour distroying invasion of personal space and to repeat myself privacy stuff. Let's send a message to congress to get the mind set changed.

Posted on March 12, 2009 at 02:02 PM by oxfortblue

I find what Tom R said to be quite offensive. Since it was proven that the people that blew up the Towers came in through Canada. Do you really think closing our borders from our neighbors is the key, good thing that they can't come in shipping container or under fake identities on every other method of transportation. Some of these people have millions of dollars at their disposal and you think that they can't find a more comfortable way in. I do wonder about this technology, what if the items are planted underneath skin can it also pick it up?

Posted on March 12, 2009 at 06:31 PM by Manny G

NO WAY !! I assert my right to the privacy of my own body. There's nothing "routine" about a virtual strip search.

Posted on March 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM by no way

what the TSA is about to do is down right unlawful. they might as well ask people to get undressed. what is this country coming to 'the land of the free' not anymore

Posted on March 14, 2009 at 10:03 PM by Max Wells

I for one will NEVER allow that invasion of privacy. Fix our borders before you take away our last vestiges of freedom from search and seizure

Posted on March 19, 2009 at 08:28 AM by Julie

So much for our freedom. I think I'd rather the pat-down & metal detector. I'd avoid this contrapment if I possibly can.

Posted on March 20, 2009 at 12:07 AM by Jean Taylor

These machines violate the 4th amendment rights to privacy protected under the constitution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The people in our government are sick for even thinking they can get away with this.

Posted on May 11, 2009 at 04:04 AM by Tiffany McHart

would you rather have somone see a picture of you on a screen or would you rather have the anxiety of not knowing who or what is in the seat next to you? The attempted bombing on christmas day of 2009 is a perfect example.

Posted on January 27, 2010 at 07:25 PM by Jesse v

Oh, get a grip people! They can't really see your skin. So they see an outline of your body... Have you been to the beach lately? Or even walked down the street? Americans and Europeans alike tend to dress very skimpy anyway, this is not a big change. I for one do not care if they see my form, I just wish it wouldn't slow down the process. Hey guys - are you afraid everyone will know the size of your package? That might be a legitimate concern if any of the TSA were ever gonna have a relationship with you..but...WHO CARES?

Posted on July 26, 2010 at 01:34 PM by female46

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