UPDATE: TSA Making Airport Body Scanners More Private

Posted Jul 20th 2011 11:15 AM


Airport body scanner

Rebecca Dolan, AOL

UPDATE 7/20/11: The Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday plans to enhance air passenger privacy at security checkpoints, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced in a press release.
The changes will be made to the agency's millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines – the full body scanners that many travelers accuse of virtually undressing them for the eyes of TSA agents.

After being tested earlier this year at three U.S. airports, software modifications to the machines will be implemented at airports nationwide. The new software, known as Automated Target Recognition (ATR), displays possible security threats on the same generic image of a person that is used for all passengers.

"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," Pistole said in the statement.

The TSA plans to test similar software for backscatter units in the fall.


Previously, 2/1/11: The Transportation Security Administration has begun testing new software designed to make full body scanner images at airport security more private.

In a demonstration at a TSA facility at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, TSA Administrator John Pistole showed off the technology that produces generic images that do not show body parts when air passengers go through the scanning devices.

Critics have raised concerns about "naked images" they say current body scanners produce. Some have called the body scanners "virtual strip searches."

"The ATR (Automated Target Recognition) technology allows us to maintain the high levels of security we have while doing the best possible job at protecting the privacy of all our passengers," Pistole said of the new software.

The software produces an androgynous image of each passenger. A TSA agent positioned at the scanner watches the screen, which is attached to the body scanner, but not visible to those in the airport security line. Unlike the current setup, the monitor is not in a back room.

If a passenger is found to be clear, a green "OK" screen appears. If a suspicious object is detected, a yellow box highlights the area on the cartoon-like body image where the threat is located. The passenger is then pulled aside for a hand search of that area.

airport body scanner

Rebecca Dolan, AOL

"We believe it addresses the privacy issues that have been raised since the AIT equipment was deployed," Pistole said.

Critics ranging from former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who is suing the TSA, to a Kentucky attorney who launched an airport underwear line – designed to block private parts when air passengers go through full body scanners at security – have criticized body scanners as being an invasion of privacy.

The software upgrades were rolled out today at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, with tests at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International and Ronald Reagan airport to follow. The testing period is expected to last 45 to 60 days, before a more expansive rollout.

"We will do the testing to assess whether ATR meets our high standards of detection," said Pistole.

airport body scanner

Rebecca Dolan, AOL

Filed Under: Air Travel, News

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The cartoon image is cool. it will acomplish what it was meant to do and not invade privacy

July 28 2011 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Radiation, which can cause cancer is the real concern. This privacy improvement helps with that issue but does not address radiation concerns. Even simple dental x-rays are enough to cause cancer in 1 out of 100 people! This was on the news a few years back. I'm still postponing trips that require flying because I wouldn't want to go through the scanner or a pat down and I wouldn't want either for my kids. I'm hoping common sense will return soon and I can travel then. In the meantime, only car trips.

The TSA needs to scan those who tend to be threats - Middle Eastern men. Yes! Racial profiling makes sense in this case! What doesn't make sense is scanning American children, moms, and elderly Americans! Say yes to racial profiling.

July 28 2011 at 10:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Have you had enough of the police state yet? It only gets worse from here folks. Apathy will be the death of America and soon.

July 28 2011 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Your Mom

The TSA should be 100% funded through a tax on airline tickets so people can see the true cost of this agency.

July 27 2011 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the naked scanner is a complete waste of our money it was janet napolotano that did a cram down of this equipment on the flying public.....its about selling machines. WSJ had a great article about three weeks ago, that says these machines are useless as the terrorists have already figured out how to implant explosives inside the body, and these new naked scanners would have no way to see the explosives.
Thanks for wasting our money, and invading our privacy Janet!

July 26 2011 at 5:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

9/11 has changed alot of things? Remember the good days when u could just wait for your friend or family in the boarding area and watch the planes take off. Not anymore.

July 26 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I'm still not interested in walking through the naked scanner. I don't care what they do.

July 26 2011 at 10:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
John Compton

So does this mean they are going to start using this on pilots and crew, or are they still exempt?

July 26 2011 at 9:26 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It is waste lot of money ...It dont need for TSA on USA only out of USA should be scanner and any foreign vistor should be scanned...Not American people who did pay for tax and lived in USA who flies in USA is not necessary to use TSA ..It should be for out of USA only in or out of country....It is waste money and we pay tax and it is not fair......

July 26 2011 at 8:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I haven't read all the comments, but think the thing we should look at the most is the radiation level of the new scanners. One of my relatives won't go through the airport because of the radiation and/or the groping, and won't let her children go through. So they never can come to my home again until they are of age, and I'll be popped off by then. Oh, well, what can you do? As for myself, I'd rather chance it with the Terrorists.

July 20 2011 at 9:22 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply