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A new, less invasive scanner has been installed in airports around the United States.
With controversy still surrounding the Transportation Security Administration’s decision to install airport scanners that allow TSA employees to see through the clothing of individual passengers, the new scanner has been installed in airports in Salt Lake City, Utah, Miami International Airport, and a number of other airports around the country.
It is believed that this new scanner will help assuage the numerous complaints that have been voiced since the original scanners were installed in March of last year.
Rather than showing the body specifics of any particular individual, this new scanner simply shows an avatar of a human. If there is any suspected weaponry or dangerous materials on the passenger, the locations of these objects are shown on the screen as small yellow boxes using an Automated Target Recognition program.
For instance, if a passenger had a suspicious object in his or her pants pocket, a yellow box would show on the screen in the same area. If anything suspicious shows up on the screen the suspected area is searched and the passenger is subject to a pat down. If there is nothing of note detected by the scanner, the screen shows “Ok” and the passenger is free to go.
The original airport scanner was introduced amid concerns by a number of individuals about the safety and privacy of travellers. Many complaints were directed at the use of an x-ray machine on such a wide number of people. Concerns were raised that the radiation produced by the x-rays could pose a number of health concerns.
However, TSA had done testing on the machines before installation and when they were first introduced the assistant administrator for security operations stated that the level of radiation emitted by these scanners “is equivalent to the amount of radiation that a passenger would receive in two minutes of flight.”
Despite assurances that the radiation levels were safe for the majority of passengers, concerns remained. The most controversial aspect to the original scanners was the fact that the image shown on the scanners revealed the nude body of the person being scanned.
The TSA tried to maintain the anonymity of the individual being scanned by having one TSA employee with the person being scanned, and another TSA employee viewing the image of the passenger. Despite the efforts by TSA to maintain an individual’s privacy to the extent that they could, many people still objected to the invasive nature of the scanners.
For individuals who are still not comfortable with the new scanners, or who are pregnant or concerned about the low levels of radiation admitted, they can still choose to have a pat down instead of going through the machine.
Now that these new scanners have a more generic picture for passengers, it helps to preserve the anonymity of the individual being scanned. It also saves costs for TSA since the image no longer needs to be screened in a separate location by a different TSA employee.
This less invasive procedure, if adopted more widely, will help to preserve the privacy of travellers, while still ensuring that their trip is safe for all involved.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/33671002@N00/