Good News: TSA Upgrading Full Body Scanners to Generic Outlines

As I talked about earlier this year, the TSA was testing the use of generic outlines for the full body imaging machines.  Today the TSA announced this test was a success and would be rolled out to all 40 airports that use the Millimeter Wave scanning machines and they will begin testing generic outlines on the Backscatter machines later this year.  While we may wish for these machines to disappear completely, that can not be realistically expected in the current political environment.  As I said when they announced the test:

The realist in me acknowledges that given the tone of our politicians and public officials, this really is the best we can expect.  They do not see the invasion of privacy in order to board a plane as a problem.  In fact, neither do a majority of American citizens (at least when they are told what is going on, not necessarily after experiencing it).  Moving the reviews of a scan from a back room somewhere to the checkpoint where the agents and the passengers can see the image is an improvement.  Changing to a generic image is an improvement.  

This is an improvement.  We can now see what the scanner finds if it says there is something that needs to be searched more closely.  No longer will we be depending on someone examining our naked images in a closed off room to determine if we are good to fly.  In fact it will now be technically reasonable to expect the machines to no longer be plugged in to any communications network, since the images no longer have to be transmitted across a security checkpoint to be viewed.

Let me be clear, I am still not a fan of these machines, however I have resigned myself to the fact that they are here to stay.  We can enjoy our ability to opt out of them while we can, as I do not expect this ability to last.  They have invested too much to allow for these machines to disappear, and they are getting comfortable enough with them to use them as primary processing machines, even during morning rush hour at extremely busy airports.  We can protest and opt out all we want, but we must prepare for the inevitable, and anything that improves this inevitable outcome is a positive.  That is where we stand today.


Brad July 20, 2011 at 06:33 pm

Thanks for the update Nick.

While this eases my objections on privacy issues, I'm still not a fan of these machines for my own health concerns, and even more so with the backscatter machines.

Jamie July 21, 2011 at 02:31 pm

BOdy scanners creep me out so much, but I hate the time it takes to opt-out and be frisked. Can't wait for the new machines to be installed!

Nick July 21, 2011 at 05:19 pm

@Brad: I completely agree, but at least millimeter wave is the technology that is reasonably safe (Some could even argue that it is safer than your cell phone).