TSA Unveils New Body Scanner Software That Doesn't Show You Naked

The Transportation Security Administration, which has been under fire over the past several months for its invasive body scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs, has announced that it's testing new advanced imaging technology (AIT) software that will address at least some of the privacy concerns surrounding its airport security measures. With the new software, which is being rolled out this week at airports in Las Vegas, Atlanta and D.C., people will no longer appear "naked" to scanner operators. Instead of seeing people's genitalia and other individual body parts when they walk through a scanner, operators will see "a generic outline of a person," like this (via Gizmodo):


 The TSA describes how the software works:

The new software will automatically detect potential threat items and indicate their location on a generic outline of a person that will appear on a monitor attached to the AIT unit. As with the current version of AIT, the areas identified as containing potential threats will require additional screening. The generic outline will be identical for all passengers. If no potential threat items are detected, an "OK" will appear on the monitor with no outline.

By eliminating the passenger-specific image associated with the current version of AIT, a separate TSA officer will no longer be required to view the image in a remotely located viewing room. Through removing this step of the process, AIT screening will become more efficient, expanding the throughput capability of the technology.

Making the body scanners less porny is a step in the right direction, to be sure -- but there are still some glaring problems with the TSA's security policies. For one thing, the new software will not change the fact that the scanners couldn't stop another, more successful "underwear bomber" from blowing up an airplane, since the machines have proven unreliable at picking up the kinds of "low-density" materials used in that bombing attempt.

And for another thing, the software does nothing to address the "enhanced" grope-down that passengers are subjected to if they cannot or do not wish to walk through a scanner. Just last week, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura filed a lawsuit against the TSA over the pat-downs and other security measures. CNN:

The suit alleges enhanced airport security procedures, including pat-downs and full body scanning, violate Ventura's rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Ventura is not seeking monetary damages, according to his attorney, David Olsen. Ventura wants an acknowledgment from the court that his rights have been violated and a court order that would stop the government from subjecting him to the screening procedures, Olsen said.

So thanks for throwing us the bone, TSA. But you could do better.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at February 2, 2011, 5:41am

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