Abuse of the Body Scanners

The SF Chronicle has been reporting on full body scanners lately. They say 28 airports in the US are scheduled to get them by the end of the year:

The agency is accelerating use of the scanners after the U.S. said Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on approach to Detroit Dec. 25 by igniting explosives in his underpants. The 1,000 scanners due at airports by the end of next year will put the devices at more than half the security lanes at major U.S. airports.

Privacy is more than just a theoretical concern, however. allAfrica calls this “Now Showing at MMIA: Nude Images of Passengers

The 3D full-body scanners procured for thorough body check of passengers at the nation’s major airports for security reasons are now being abused by security officials from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), THISDAY can confirm.
They use the machines, installed in the wake of the Farouk AbdulMutallab affair, to watch the naked images of female passengers for fun.

Passengers are not required to use the scanners, despite the TSA investment. A medical-software consultant quoted in the SF Chronicle makes it clear that she will always opt out.

Powell said she will continue to allow extra time before her flights to find the line that won’t force her to walk through the body scanners, even if they are upgraded [with privacy enhancements]. The devices are still capable of transmitting and storing images, she said, and that “is scary.”

Updated to add (28/10/10):

I now make it a regular habit to opt out of the scanners. Each time I am asked “you realize this will take longer” and I say yes. I am not dissuaded.

Given delays I am subjected to during travel another delay is no big deal. Losing my privacy is a big deal. Being subjected to harmful rays also a concern. So, yes, I realize it will take longer but I don’t mind.

Once I was asked to explain myself to management. A weary-looking woman pulled out a pen and paper pad while another TSA agent slowly ran his hands down my legs. She said “I am required to document your reason.” She stared at me with the look of “this better be good”.

“Privacy” I said.

She paused. Then she asked “That’s it? Your reason is privacy?”

“Yes, privacy” I repeated.

She grew a large smile and said “Wow, that’s easy! Great. Some are so long.” Then she let out a small laugh and said “Have a nice day” as she walked away.

Indeed. Nice day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.