Backscatter X-Ray Machines and Your Privacy

I've written about backscatter X-ray technology before. It's great for finding hidden weapons on a person, but it's also great for seeing naked images of them. The TSA is piloting this technology in Phoenix, and they're deliberately blurring the images to protect privacy.

Note that the system is being made better by making the resulting images less detailed. Excellent.

Posted on December 6, 2006 at 6:45 AM • 64 Comments

Comments

KeithDecember 6, 2006 7:06 AM

Wow. Logic and security together from Homeland Security/TSA. Who would have thought it?

Ed T.December 6, 2006 7:19 AM

Actually, they would only need to blur selected parts of the image to 'protect' privacy - and in fact, the real protection comes from the fact that the images can't be saved, or printed - not from pixellating the 'naughty bits'.

Just curious, did they (the TSA) identify what those objects were on the male figure? They appear to be related to some type of medical device (maybe an insulin pump.)

~EdT.

Clive RobinsonDecember 6, 2006 7:35 AM

The two real questions are

1) resolution
2) Pattern matching

With regards to resolution the less you have the less you can see.

However it's a two way street the less you can see the less you can find...

Likewise pattern matching actually just how good are humans looking at a flickering screen for 12x7 at recognising objects?

Lets say I make a bone knife and put it up against my spine low down or tuck it up between my legs (especialy if I wrap it in pork belly etc), or in body cavities (which is what prisinors are reputed to do).

Is the system going to be able to see it?

Is the human going to recognise it?

Even if it can see it how small / thin / iregular do I make my knife before it is not visable through the bluring process and operator tiredness?

I'm sure prisioners / criminals are going to find out real quick, then whom will know?

a.December 6, 2006 8:11 AM

and this time the risk for anyone getting to secondary screening will rise when they are good looking...
pictures can always be saved, even indirectly. unless of course the TSA personnel wouldn't be allowed any devices such as mobile phones that have camera features. .. scary thought to be able to find somewhere pictures saved (with phone, for example) of people that are either famous or particular or particularly good looking.

RoyDecember 6, 2006 8:32 AM

While the image cannot -- we are told -- be saved, the image can be copied, say by a camera, as in a picture phone.

We'll know when the first pictures of Paris Hilton show up on the Internet.

DMDecember 6, 2006 8:50 AM

Wow. I cant wait for the first backscatter cartoons of Paris Hilton playing nekkid simon-says with TSA office freindly.

mdfDecember 6, 2006 9:01 AM

Looks like a strip search by another name: only an idiot would agree to be subjected to this. It's likely there won't be many, so this convenience will soon become mandatory.

ZDecember 6, 2006 9:12 AM

How long do you think that it will be until everyone has to do this? That would be great, because then I can become famous on the internet for having naked pictures of me on the internet right next to the scanned information from my RFID enabled passport.

Marie CurieDecember 6, 2006 9:45 AM

No one's concerned about ionizing radiation?

I'm not going through one of these things.

Have fun with cancer!

JarrodDecember 6, 2006 9:47 AM

I would absolutely volunteer to go through this if it would speed me through security lines. I don't have any problems with this at all (then again, I don't have an XX chromosome set), and indeed I support the idea of using this instead of the less-accurate, more time-intensive methods that are used now. Concerns about images showing up might be mitigated by having a direct view of the person blocked from the camera operator so that all they can do is flag the person currently being scanned, and a requirement that all photographic equipment (cell phones included) remain outside of the booth.

I've been watching this technology mature over the last couple of years, and maybe, just maybe, it will speed things up while lowering overall costs.

RCDecember 6, 2006 9:48 AM

Yes, this is an excellent way to take away people's rights and security in steps.

First, you implement a technology that has the capability to invade privacy to an unprecidented degree -- but with some add-on safeguards (no storing of images; blur the images). These safeguards are not at all inherent to the system; they can be added or removed at will.

Second, once the technology is widespread and accepted, then you begin storing the unblurred images. You could even show the blurred image to the screener, but store a non-blurred image for later use.

Step three, link the info from RFID passports with unblurred stored images, on the excuse that it will help to identify potential terrorists or criminals. These images could eventually be stored and used by government and law enforcement as routinely as looking up social security numbers or driver's license information.

Excellent? Really?

Jamie FlournoyDecember 6, 2006 10:05 AM

RC you left out a step: when people object, you make a melodramatic speech about how this expensive, invasive, but not very effective technology is Absolutely Essential in Prosecuting the War On Terror and Keeping Americans Safe, and paint the objectors as traitors / wimps / sympathizers / collaborators.

After that point you can start taking the blurring off and putting it on passports because you already publicly tarred and feathered your naysayers.

bobDecember 6, 2006 10:23 AM

It doesnt say it cannot store, save or print images. Is says those features are not available (read administrativly approved) to the security officer operating the machine.

This means a) it DOES have those capabilities and the maintenance tech, security supervisor and TSA DO have the ability to use them carte blanche and b) even that limitation is only a VIP penstroke away.

LonerVampDecember 6, 2006 10:23 AM

A lot of the ideas and possibilities to beat systems like this are in the realm of science fiction for the most part. Yes, they can be done by a determined person, but just like computer security, you can't always tailor your security measures to stop even highly skilled and determined attackers. They WILL get around your protections regardless of what they are. And if their intent is to make a statement and spread terror, they will just work around you by not even attacking airplanes.

That's the whole balancing act. Balancing cost, personal privacy and reasonable intrusion to normal functionality, and the risk of a highly skilled attacker.

How often have there been hijackings and attacks on airplanes? There's likely been more in movies than in real life. Is that because we have such amazing security? Obviously not.

We can make a living nit-picking on ways to break every security measure out there, or we can get on with living life... We do have to maintain a sense of reality when it comes to security.

I'd be willing to bet that people would not want technology to view others naked on a monitor when walking through airport security, pixelated or not. The cost, in the mind of the average consumer, is likely more than the risk averted.

Besides, bringing a bone knife shoved up one's ass versus using a pen as a weapon is not a whole lot different. You cannot realistically stop one, so why try stopping the other?

If airlines/makers are taking proper technical precautions inside the plane, proper training for in-flight crew, and attempt to locate explosives and high-power or mass-killing weapons (guns) at the checkpoints, the risk of another World Trade Center incident is dramatically reduced.

As it is anyway, we'll slowly be coming down from this high of inspired security due to 9/11 over time. Every year, a few more people decide that their time spent and frustration in the airport security lines is worth more than the enhanced security. My guess it is still lingering only because White House administration has not changed since then. Change that in a few years, and I think it will fall back down to more realistic levels.

Aaron MuderickDecember 6, 2006 10:23 AM

I honestly don't care who sees me naked. I mean, really, am I that interesting or good to look at? No.

As for the radiation, this is a moot point...the amount of radiation is infinitesimal compared with the amount you'll receive from cosmic rays while on the airplane.

BUT, what does this say about our society? If only prisoners get strip searches, what does it say when the government moves to strip search all citizens? We are all prisoners in a cage of our own making.

Since this is done under the veil of terrorism, please tell me a) if this would have stopped any of the 9/11 hijackers and b) why would I hide a weapon on my person when government tests show that screeners fail to detect over 90% of weapons smuggled by TSA testers?

Other than the fact that it exists and there is a salesforce behind it, what is the benefit of this technology in preventing terrorism?

OR perhaps the most likely benefit to law enforcement is in detecting the transport of small personal quanities of 'illegal' drugs (stashed in underwear, shoes, socks, and bulky clothing)?

RealistDecember 6, 2006 10:27 AM

@Ed T.
The privacy issue is NOT just about the "naughty bits"... several groups have raised concern about issues of body image, such as others seeing "flabby" parts or physical deformities that may have been hidden or minimized by clothing, scars, etc. The scans would also detect implants, pacemakers, prosthetics, etc.

McGavinDecember 6, 2006 10:31 AM

"We'll know when the first pictures of Paris Hilton show up on the Internet."


Not to worry. The rich and famous don't have to go through security.

RichDecember 6, 2006 10:33 AM

Terrorist's solution: hide your devices (weapons, explosives, etc.) in your luggage, e.g. non-metalic weapons.

Better yet, get an accomplice airport employee to smuggle them onto a plane, e.g. plane cleaner.

Alexandre Carmel-VeilleuxDecember 6, 2006 11:36 AM

It's a pretty weak X-ray since they don't even want to see through the person. All they want is to get the body outline.

That's probably why on the male subject you can see the belt buckle, the zipper or fly button (not sure which), what looks like a keyring or some change in the pocket and a watch wristband but no bones or similar of a "full-power" X-ray. Likely a full X-ray dose would create too much signal to extract the weak back-scatter.

Alexandre Carmel-VeilleuxDecember 6, 2006 11:38 AM

Also, this is being touted as a voluntary alternative to the very invasive (and non-avoidable otherwise) pat-down search. At least with this, the officer doing the actual search is remote and cannot be seen and the officer one can see does not see through one's clothes.

DaveDecember 6, 2006 12:07 PM

I would think that technology could place fig leaves at appropriate places on the images... Wait, that would cause problems if terrorists disguised their weapons as fig leaves...

sweatpantsDecember 6, 2006 12:08 PM

The images shown in the link to the TSA site (in the post above) are line drawings, not actual backscatter pictures. Check this out:

male - http://www.epic.org/privacy/surveillance/...

female - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061201/ap_on_re_us/...

Can anyone say "violation of the 4th amendment"? "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This is an invasive search without a warrant.

The gov't publicly says what the public wants to hear, but privately does what it wants. Warrantless wiretapping, total information awareness (but under a different name), profiles of people based on what they eat(!), which will be kept for 40 years. The gov't says these things do not exist until someone exposes them, and it can no longer be denied. Why should anyone believe they will not be keeping these pictures and adding them to our "profiles"? Profiles which, by the way, everyone including private companies can see, but you can't.

"Yet for all the detailed information the technology discerns, its utility appears to be limited. Keeping the radiation dose low enough to skim the skin's surface means that backscatter cannot detect weapons hidden in body folds."
http://www.epic.org/privacy/surveillance/...

An overweight person can hide a weapon, contraband, etc. in a skin fold, and the backscatter xray won't see it anyway. For that matter, a buxom woman can simply not wear a bra and hide something under her breast(s). Anyone can hide something in a body cavity.

This technology is objectionable on many levels, and in the end is not going to keep us any safer.

Brian SDecember 6, 2006 12:17 PM

I would think that the point here should remain steadfastly on the effectiveness of the device first. After all, how many people really think that a plane full of people will allow themselves to be taken hostage by a guy with a knife? A gun? Only in so far as they penetrate the hull and the plane goes down, maybe. Bombs, yep still scary, but it seems that luggage and freight offer far better options for security avoidance than carry on bombs.

So even if the privacy concerns are not all that great (I'm not saying they aren't but let's leave that alone for a second) what does this machine do for us that justifies the cost? It seems it strengthens and area that doesn't need strengthening, the rare event of a carry on weapon, on an even more rare risk, a weapon on board an aircraft that allows a take over or mass casualty event.

Do we really want to risk the privacy issues and future privacy degradations possible from this over that risk profile? It doesn't seem that this offers cost benefit (costly machine, still needs 1-2 operators, probably slightly faster than pat search or "wanding") and it puts at risk privacy. All to avoid a serious but extremely rare event.

sweatpantsDecember 6, 2006 12:20 PM

The backscatter pictures are detailed enough to show genitalia and nipples. The TSA says that the technology will blur people's private parts, but we have no way of knowing that they really will do that, considering that the picture will be shown to an agent in a remote location, and you never get to see what they see.

If you are modest, of either gender, would you want to undergo this? If you are male, and don't care about people looking at you, do you care if someone is looking at your wife? Your 16 year old daughter? What if the agent is secretly a pedophile? Would you want an anonymous stranger looking at naked pictures of your little boy or little girl?


sweatpantsDecember 6, 2006 12:26 PM

Brian S, I agree. Even if we put aside the privacy issues, the technology is not worth it because it is not effective, at any cost. Skin folds!

RoyDecember 6, 2006 12:31 PM

@Jarrod
"and a requirement that all photographic equipment (cell phones included) remain outside of the booth."

There's a fundamental flaw here. The people who work there not themselves subject to being searched -- either coming or going -- so they can bring any equipment they can conceal.

Who shall guard the guards? Nobody. They bypass all security measures.

BTW, the language must change: The private parts are now transitionally public parts.

derfDecember 6, 2006 12:33 PM

Actually, the pictures CAN be saved. One of the original selling points of the system was that the images could be saved and viewed on any PC. The system is supposedly setup so as not to save them. Do you TRUST the TSA not to use it? Once the technology is in all airports, the TSA can simply turn the image saving back on.

Another point - "security cameras" that aren't specifically part of the system can capture the images from the screen or get a direct feed from the system.

Also, cell phones, spy cams, video cameras, or any other type of image capture device can take pictures of the screen. It won't take long before these pictures show up on the internet or in tabloids. Imagine how much the tabloids or sex websites would pay the barely minimum wage hack behind the curtain for a nekkid picture of the celeb-du-jour? How many of them could resist several thousand big ones?

This isn't your average photograph. They're shooting modified X-rays at you. What's this going to do to you? Have there been ANY long term studies? Anyone old enough to remember the shoe store X-ray debacle? At one point (late 40's, early 50's if my Alzheimer's isn't failing me), some shoe stores had X-ray machines as a novelty so you could see your foot bones. I know a number of men that this technology sterilized - they can't have children because they spent too much time admiring their feet. The lawyers would love to fleece the taxpayers for a government mandated, modern scheme like this, and we simply can't afford it.

One last thing - we're treating every passenger like a criminal. It's very much like the DRM systems. Didn't we create this country based on liberty and a presumption of innocence? How do we get this country back on course?

DanDecember 6, 2006 12:58 PM

@sweatpants:
Careful. "We must protect the children from perverts" has probably been used to justify as many intrusive government procedures as it has protected people from them.

That said, the main issue here is that no one should have to explain why they wish their fourth amendment rights should be protected. Security is all about cost-benefit analysis. Is the benefit of dubiously slightly increased security worth the cost of a constitutional right?

Unfortunately, I think the fact that many Americans are already willing to tolerate antishoplifting cameras in clothing store changing rooms means the TSA wil likely win this one.

No NameDecember 6, 2006 1:04 PM

I recently stumbled across a rather silly story about Swedish customs staff keeping the passport pictures of "beautiful women" who passed though customs.
http://www.thelocal.se/5704/20061205/
Good thing the customs staff didn't have access to these new X-ray machines.
I think I would feel uncomfortable about being scanned by Backscatter X-ray.
Seems like there are more reasons not to fly almost every day.

dmcDecember 6, 2006 1:13 PM

So the obvious attack strategy would be to wear some sort of (very small) weapon around the privates. The area being blurred, the weapon might also be indistinguishable.

sweatpantsDecember 6, 2006 1:19 PM

@Dan

I have never seen a camera in a changing room, nor do I think they would be tolerated. I think that if they are not illegal, they would be grounds for massive lawsuits, not to mention shopper exodus to other stores.

Which stores have cameras in their changing rooms? Have you ever seen one?

You said "many Americans are already willing to tolerate antishoplifting cameras in clothing store changing rooms". Is that statement based on a study or survey? Can you reference it?


-ac-December 6, 2006 1:52 PM

And how will this diminish the sexual harassment of passengers by security agents? Not likely.

Send this back unitl they have a CAD system to process the images and only show the ones that the software deems interesting. See digital mammography CAD and similar for lung CT scans.

EHDecember 6, 2006 2:18 PM

In the UK we don't have a right to privacy as such, we have a right to respect for private and family life, (which applies to public bodies, not companies), however we do have a data protection act that is weakly enforced, to control the disclosure of personal identifiable data. We have a common law duty of confidence, which is a form of privacy law, and generally applies to medical, legal information.

So, if I get x-rayed, and I didn't want anyone to know I had a certain medical ailment that would be exposed, or extention, that could be a breach of my right to respect for my privacy, and a breach of duty of confidence on medical grounds....I don't know say a paper bag over my head or something...

ANDecember 6, 2006 2:57 PM

"High Energy X-Rays"???

Anybody know what the radiation levels are?

I know people get cancer from low-powered medical X-Rays. (But those are deemed beneficial overall due to the low rate of cancer, and the medical benefits.)

How many people are going to die from this "Security-Theater"?

What are the effects on developing children? Or unborn children?

BillPDecember 6, 2006 3:44 PM

You all have no sense of humor. Here is an opportunity!

Is that a sausage in your pants or are you just glad to see TSA?

How about an aluminium duct tape tattoo? FCKTSA? BYTEME? TSAKGB?

The same foil trick to shadow an ALIEN in your gut?

Really, my point is that the more the Administration pushes, the more we need to respond to the invasion.

MattDDecember 6, 2006 4:18 PM

@sweatpants

While I agree with your comments generally and find this whole idea concerning, I don't agree technically that those TSA images are drawings as you say. Using a completely un-tuned Canny edge detector that I had handy and the image in the second story you posted gives this result:

http://guarana.org/~stauff/tsa-canny.jpg

I'm sure some tuning (and the real source image instead of a jpg of a photo) would make it better.

- Matthew

No NameDecember 6, 2006 5:36 PM

@BillP

"You have no sense of humor."

Judging by the reports I have read about the airport security, it is the TSA who have a humor deficit.
I would advise against playing pranks with the TSA - they will probably respond with a real strip search, just to show how much they appreciate your joke.
In practice, you have no rights when entering a foreign country and I wouldn't even screw around on an internal flight.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 6, 2006 5:54 PM

"system is being made better by making the resulting images less detailed"

yes, ideally it would be made so less detailed that the only thing recognizable would be the object in question and nothing else.

in the other extreme direction, perhaps the TSA guards should be moved aside by radiologists who could do simple health-checks in a properly private/screened environment, and then hand over a yea/nay to the TSA. that would i think officially classify the data as health/medical info, and also make the process more valuable to the traveller. plus that would almost be like subsidized health-care, no?

just thinking out loud, but it seems like there might be a way to cover several bases all at once: airline safety, privacy, health-care, and insurance. of course the mix is a bit scary in itself...

altjiraDecember 6, 2006 9:46 PM

I'm flying out through Sky Harbor next weekend. I was going to get there early and refuse the backscatter (ironic, since I've gone nude in public before), but BillP's tape idea sounds good. Well, something a little less confrontational - maybe "PRIVACY" or "4TH AMDMT". No, that still would probably get me pulled. Hmmm - maybe I should just save everyone the trouble and put all my clothing in the tray along with my shoes!

WylieDecember 7, 2006 3:03 AM

Uh, I hate to state the obvious, but the article says the images "WILL NOT be stored" - There is a difference between that and not being able to be saved.

The images obviously can be saved, as evidenced by the following statement from the article:

"The images below are acutal images shown to the Transportation Security Officer"

RFID forumsDecember 7, 2006 10:50 AM

So the obvious attack strategy would be to wear some sort of (very small) weapon around the privates. The area being blurred, the weapon might also be indistinguishable.

BillPDecember 7, 2006 11:40 AM

If one person antognizes TSA, I'm sure that they would get a strip search. If two, they might be labeled terrorist group. But, say hundreds or thousands do it, they might think it a movement. And that would be what it is, the anti-Big Brother movement.
Think of the impact. Thousands of people being strip searched. Planes may be late, waiting for passengers. The terrorists watch list would overload with so many names that few people would be allowed to fly. Airlines could face bankrupcy and the economic impact would get the government's attention. Anything that prevents the government from stealing from the taxpayers and giving to the corporations gets attention.

Inspired by Alice's Restaurant.

JoeDecember 7, 2006 3:37 PM

I don't know what the big fuss is about, if you've got nothing to hide you don't need to wear clothes. Oh no, wait, that's cryptography.

MarkDecember 7, 2006 3:51 PM

Those images look deciving.
I will be very concern when my love ones turn sideway while the machine is on...

CarlDecember 7, 2006 4:55 PM

This is easy to defeat. You use one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse against the other.

The TSA wants to use this against terrorists (one of the four horsemen). What happens when a child pornographer (another of the four horsemen) starts posting naked backscatter pictures of children on the Internet?

Child pornographers > terrorists when we can use other means of security.

jonny sDecember 8, 2006 7:12 AM

From the article:

"Backscatter is a voluntary option for passengers undergoing secondary screening as an alternative to the physical pat down procedures currently conducted by Transportation Security Officer s at the security screening checkpoint."

As at least a half dozen have pointed out above this, you can (theoretically) circumvent any security gained by this buy hiding weapons/contraband in your flesh, near your genitals, or by wearing lead underpants. "Why yes, I would like to opt for you taking naked pictures of me so you can't see the weapon I'm packing in my crotch."

Backscatter: the preferred airport security feature of 4 out of 5 terrorists.

XellosDecember 8, 2006 8:07 AM

--"As for the radiation, this is a moot point..."

Sure, probably, but it doesn't matter. As long as a huge portion of the public has a knee-jerk reaction to anything with the words nuclear or radiation in it, you can easily get away with it regardless of what you really think.

Anyone else wondering how long it'll take them to combine these systems with the ones the police can use for looking through walls? And what tortured logic the current Supreme Court is going to use to make it all okay?

AnonymousDecember 8, 2006 10:17 AM

@sweatpants: In 2002 I went to the toilet in an irish pub. At that time I had already developed the habit to look for cameras in every room, and yes there was one looking straight at where I was expected to pee.

Well, I did not, and never entered that pub again.

ElliottDecember 8, 2006 10:53 AM

"What are the effects on developing children? Or unborn children?"

Good point. History tells us that again and again, technology, pharma and chemicals have caused catastrophal damages because science _at_that_time_ had no idea about the long-term effects.

Remember thalidomide (contergan), asbestos, uranium bullets, chlorofluorocarbons, ... ?

I have a friend who developed software to operate x-ray devices. He found that under certain circumstances the x-ray device would emit 100 times stronger radiation than it should, which might actually cause cancer and kill someone each time it happens. The manufacturer kept on denying that, of course.

I would not accept to be scanned by a backscatter device for the following reasons:

1. I believe there is a risk for my physical health, even if the device works as expected and the current state of science views the radiation as negligible.

2. I believe there is a risk that it won't work as expected. See my story about the unreliable x-ray device above.

3. I believe the images will be stored, viewed, analyzed, circulate in ever larger networks and finally appear on the internet. The TSA, FBI, employees of the manufacturer, and the security staff are all motivated to do so, if only to sell it to insurance companies and porn sites.

4. I believe that the data could be abused to compute a medical and racial profile about me.

5. It is yet another attack on civil liberties, and prepares the minds of the sheep for the next, even more intrusive step of the government.

6. It just feels wrong, dangerous to my freedom, and unacceptable.

DanDecember 8, 2006 1:59 PM

@sweatpants: Re fitting room cameras

My statements were from personal observation. I haven't been able to find a source worth citing after five minutes of Googling.

I've seen plenty of department store chains with signs in the fitting rooms informing customers that the fitting rooms are monitored over CCTV by same-gender security personel. This did not seem to dissuade very many people from using the fitting rooms.

I believe I've seen them at Macys and The Gap, but I'll pay attention to which stores have them the next time I shop for clothing.

I believe that the reason they're legal is because customers are notified in advance, and can choose not to use the fitting room or to shop elsewhere.

If I have time to find more evidence, I'll let you know.

DougCDecember 8, 2006 3:29 PM

I think Brian S made the good point. Used to be if you were on a plane that was hijacked, you were actually pretty safe. It would waste some time, you'd get to see some place you hadn't planned on, and the airline would fall all over itself trying to make it up to you. Not many people got killed, because alive they were hostages.

After 9/11, a hijacking looks like a death sentence to a plane full of people trying to overcome "air rage". There is now motivation to fight the hijacker even if it means personal risk.

And yeah, the government IS breaking any law they want to, and then saying "it's a secret" to get out of any exposure of it. This stinks, I used to be somewhat more proud to be a citizen than I am now. But I doubt "we the sheeple" will do anything about it.

RadiographerDecember 23, 2006 3:05 AM

"What are the effects on developing children? Or unborn children?"

I can only comment on what I know from Imaging X-ray equipment used in the health field, and while I cannot as a radiographer state that there is a threshold to good/bad x-ray levels (as an imaging professional, we operate on the assumption that no x-rays are safe, so as to minimize exposure to our patients), I *can* say with a degree of certainty that the amount of x-rays you're exposed to for a routine Chest x-ray is less than or equivalent to the exposure you'd receive from a flight from California to say, New York. I would like to know what amount of technical factors are being used to achieve this image. The public would most likely be more at ease (at least regarding the technical details) if we knew how much radiation we were actually being exposed to.

"Good point. History tells us that again and again, technology, pharma and chemicals have caused catastrophal damages because science _at_that_time_ had no idea about the long-term effects."

And while I agree with you regarding the long term effects, what would you have us do-go back to the stone age and kill animals with flint arrows? Of course not, that isn't realistic.

"I have a friend who developed software to operate x-ray devices. He found that under certain circumstances the x-ray device would emit 100 times stronger radiation than it should, which might actually cause cancer and kill someone each time it happens. The manufacturer kept on denying that, of course."

I would ask what type of x-ray devices he was referring to. I would dare say that it certainly wasn't for healthcare-if I had that type of variation in my imaging equipment, it would be so inaccurate as to have to have the system serviced or scrapped. Please make the distinction as to what you're referring to.

"1. I believe there is a risk for my physical health, even if the device works as expected and the current state of science views the radiation as negligible."

That's certainly your choice-and given all the facts, I might agree with you. I certainly at the least would like to know the amount of radiation used before I made up my mind on at least this part.

"2. I believe there is a risk that it won't work as expected. See my story about the unreliable x-ray device above."

Again, that's your opinion. my hope is that this type of equipment goes through as much if not more QA than the equipment used in hospitals...

"3. I believe the images will be stored, viewed, analyzed, circulate in ever larger networks and finally appear on the internet. The TSA, FBI, employees of the manufacturer, and the security staff are all motivated to do so, if only to sell it to insurance companies and porn sites."

No offense, but I believe this is being a little paranoid, don't you? Firstly I'm sure the pornographers have more than willing subjects to pose for their sites, and secondly, you're not even sure of the capabilities of radiation from the machine, let alone the resolution so how can you make this assumption?

"4. I believe that the data could be abused to compute a medical and racial profile about me."

The problem with this theory is that the machine would have to take several images of different technique to visualize *all* of the processes in your body. No one is going to have a "magic" picture of everything happening just by you walking through the scanner on your way to a flight.

"5. It is yet another attack on civil liberties, and prepares the minds of the sheep for the next, even more intrusive step of the government."

I'll pass on this, since I'm only commenting on the technology


"6. It just feels wrong, dangerous to my freedom, and unacceptable."


Same as #5

Crazy girlFebruary 23, 2007 11:22 PM

Let's see...my choice is either getting felt up by a complete stranger of the same sex (they should at least let us choose male or female feeler uppers), or getting a semi-naked x-ray of me transmitted to a booth by someone that I can't see who could very well have some type of digital camera to take pics of me to put on the internet. I think I'll just drive.

selmaMarch 7, 2007 7:51 PM

I am thinking of the book "1984" where there is a camera in every room of an apartment. The protaganist has to hide behind a partition or the fridge to do something that he doesn't want Big Brother to find out. Can't read a book or watch certain TV shows or talk frankly to a friend or phone someone without BB watching and listening to it all.
Now is March 2007 and the airlines are in a mess, New York City doesn't have a counter-terrorist workable plan for the subways, streets, offices or apartments.This is just a major fiasco, if anyone cares! Liddy is indicted for lying while the persons who outed Plame are not touched. The Iraq war is not going well, The stock market just took a major dive, housing stock is three times what it was last year. But Bush will send men to Iraq, even for a third or fourth tour due to lack of available additional soldiers to fight. They can't tell the sides of politics there because they all dress the same. Shades of Vietnam!! So watch your step, look around carefully, and don't tell your inner thoughts to anyone or you may be "disappeared".

LynneApril 21, 2008 10:05 AM

This is important technology but for women who have suffered sexual abuse/rape, the procedure(s) can be viewed as so intolerable that these people will refuse to fly.

What are your options if you're at the airport, ticket in hand and you choose not to fly if they want to do this to you.
Can you just walk away and go home?

LynneApril 21, 2008 10:07 AM

This is important technology but for women who have suffered sexual abuse/rape, the procedure(s) can be viewed as so intolerable that these people will refuse to fly.

What are your options if you're at the airport, ticket in hand and you choose not to fly if they want to do this to you.
Can you just walk away and go home?

RalfAugust 5, 2008 5:19 PM

Why would anyone believe that the TSA's image file data can not be stored or transfered when the same government is free to tap our phones and read our email without warrent?

MarjorieJanuary 28, 2009 12:22 PM

Let's see...about one in four women is a victim of sexual assault. It is unlikelythat these consumers would decide to fly with the loss of control and privacy invasions from both the backscatter and pat downs. Another reason the airlines are losing business!

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