Bodyscanners Again

By | Category: Travel rumblings

© Dan Sperrin

The stories about bodyscanners and how and what data is stored when we go them at airports has been quiet for a little while over here. Not so in the US where new software is being tested to replace the one which shows a truer outline of the bodily figure. The new software is supposed to show just stick figures but it seems that may not be the whole story.
EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is a privacy lobbying group in the US has used their Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), about the new software the agency is installing on airport millimetre-wave, full-body scanners. These show that the software still may be capable of storing and transmitting unfiltered images of naked airline travelers. That’s not to say this is happening but given what EPIC has found in the past you can be forgiven for being suspicious. The documents also show that passengers passing through the machines will be identified by gender and assigned a unique identification number. Is this being linked to a boarding card number or some other personally identifiable piece of information?
Admittedly, there is no plan to install similar software on the more widely used “backscatter” x-ray scanners but that may come. EPIC has repeatedly caught out the TSA on what it has publicly said but privately done. As EPIC says, neither millimetre-wave nor backscatter scanners are designed to detect powdered explosives. If that’s the case you do wonder how useful and effective this software is going to be.
Over there, the Department of Homeland Security also is using mobile bodyscanners and moving them about in vans EPIC has found. It is now trying to get information from the government that might explain what is planned for these vehicles.
Airport security and the use of scanners is generally something that people over here are prepared to accept in the belief that it makes us safer. But more and more information seems to point to the fact that the equipment is designed to assure rather than being as efficient as we are led to believe.

For more information about EPIC, click here

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