TSA Stops Invasive Scanning at Airports

Image: TSA Stops Invasive Scanning at Airports A TSA officer looks at a simulated image from a backscatter X-ray machine.

Thursday, 30 May 2013 04:04 PM

By Greg Richter

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The TSA has agreed to fit all future X-ray machines with filter technology, eliminating scans that essentially create nude photos of travelers, The Hill reports.

Following complaints from travelers, Democrats and Republicans in Congress leaned on the Transportation Security Administration to add filters to the X-ray machines.

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In a letter written on May 24 and released on Thursday, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole wrote to the House Committee on Homeland Security that the agency is in compliance with the statute requiring generic images of the human body.

TSA had asked for an extension of its original deadline because it dropped the contract with the original makers of the scanners. That extension was granted and moved to May 31, 2013. All future scanners, Pistole wrote, will be have the filter built-in.

Privacy concerns were raised when the backscatter scanners were first put into use. The images were supposedly seen only by operators in a remote location who could not see the person being scanned. The negative images were shown by people on the Internet to produce clear nude images when reversed to "positives."

The possibility of TSA employees copying the photos, including a clear view of the face, raised privacy issues. Others worried about the amount of radiation emitted.

"I applaud TSA for becoming compliant with the law mandating that all AIT machines used by TSA are equipped with up-to-date privacy filters," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said after the Thursday announcement.



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