From the beginning I have been against airport body scanners. Not only because of the privacy aspect, but they just don’t work effectively. I have been watching closely the development of the body scanners, which are starting to be used around the world, and problems are already popping up.
Probably the biggest issue is that the body scanners can easily be avoided. Stephen Frischling recently looked how even the very best security is no good, if someone wanting to do harm can just circumvent it.
Kathleen Petrowsky, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Director at Chicago O’Hare Airport, first stated it would be mandatory for all passengers to be scanned with the body scanners. However, after making that statement, Frishling received a reply from the TSA’s blog team stating, “Imaging technology is optional. No plans to make it mandatory… Anything else you read is incorrect.” Frischling confirmed this with the TSA’s Public Affairs unit that the scanners would be optional. Passengers who do not want to be scanned would be able to have a pat down instead.
Hmm. We are told that pat downs are not affective enough at stopping terrorists; so we need the body scanners, yet they are not required? What would stop someone who wanted to do harm to request a pat down? Not to get too graphic but there are a lot of places someone could hide something they don’t want found. At about $150,000.00 a pop is this really a good investment?
Does this mean I am advocating the body scanners be required? No way! Putting the fact you can avoid them aside, there is still the issue of privacy. JetBlue’s BlueTales blog recently reported about a security agent who made a sexually charged remark about a passenger who accidentally walked through a body scanner at London Heathrow Airport. He stated, “love those gigantic ****” (click here for the actual wording) when the 29 year old female passenger walked through.
The machines are designed well and they do a good job. The weak part are the people. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of TSA workers are great workers and do a wonderful job. But you only need a few people to screw up a whole process. Yes, in America the TSA will be in a remote location reviewing the scanner images so passengers won’t have to hear if they make any inappropriate comments.
I really think it has to do more with security theater than anything else. It costs a lot of money, we are already seeing the privacy issues and it can be avoided all together, so what is the point? If passengers don’t feel safe, they won’t fly. These machines make most passengers feel safe even though in reality they aren’t any safer. Is it more important to spend money on safety you can see or safety that works?Image: BBC