Airports can be great places to hang out at after you get through security.
The last few years, the more I fly, the more I see body scanners. To date, even though many airports I travel to and from have body scanners, I have been able to avoid them — and pat-downs as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not about making a huge stand and doing whatever I can to avoid them. I just do what any normal passenger might try to avoid an additional delay at the airport.
Most of the time I fly out of Seattle-Tacoma International airport (SEA), where they have three main check points. At each check point there are multiple security lines and each line has access to a body scanner. Problem is, on many occasions there will be multiple lines open, but only one body scanner active.
A TSA agent will check my ID and boarding pass and then I have the ability to choose which security line I want. Of course, I choose a line that does not have a body scanner active and viola I have avoided the $150,000.00 high-tech scanner.
I have noticed at some airports there will be a second TSA employee telling you which line to go in, but often this person is missing or also easy to ignore if one wanted to. Could the TSA demand you go to line #1 with the body scanners and then escort you over? Sure, but that is a pretty embarrassing situation to put a person in, especially if it ends up being only people of a certain race.
This is not a big deal if someone who means airlines no harm can avoid the body scanners, but it would be just as easy for someone wanting to do harm. Take away all the privacy and health concerns; what is the point of spending all this money for the machines, training, and man-power to “keep us all safe,” if they can be consistently avoided? My father always told me, “if you are going to do something, do it right.” Sure, I didn’t always listen as a kid, but I think it is good advice for the TSA — I only hope they are listening.
How have your experiences with the body scanners gone? Have you noticed the same lack of consistency?
A Transportation Security Administration employee demonstrates a backscatter X-ray body scanner, following the directions of a screener, at SEA Photo by Aubrey Cohen/Seattle PI
Ah the joys of body scanners. Costing a fortune, invading our privacy and making people feel safer about flying. I haven’t been a fan of them since the get-go and now my home town airport has them.
Back in August I reported that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) would start using body scanners in September. However, they got delayed, but now are ready to start scanning. Two of the machines have been installed at the south check point and should be in full use by the end of this week.
Jim Forman with KING5 was at SEA last week and got a first look at the body scanners. Some of the people he interviewed said, “If it keeps us safer on the flights, it’s worth it.” Well, what if it doesn’t keep you safer? Is it worth it then?
Aubrey Cohen with the Seattle PI asked about privacy and health concerns. The TSA explained to him that the machines are not able to store images, and the screeners in the room may not have any cameras, cell phones or other recording devices. The TSA also applies a “privacy algorithm” that makes the images less explicit. Even though there might be the rule of no cameras or phones, that doesn’t mean all employees across the country will listen to those rules.
When asked about heath concerns, Jeanette Parker, deputy federal security director at SEA told Cohen,”This technology is safe, it meets national health and safety standards. Backscatter technology was evaluated by independent third parties. Studies have shown a single scan with backscatter imaging technology is equivalent to two minutes of flight at altitude.”
Even though the scanners are only at the south check point, additional scanners will be installed at the north check point soon. It will be closed for two weeks while they reconfigure the check point for the new body scanners. The TSA does not expect there to be any delays since they will open all the stations at the other three check points.
As more and more airports get these scanner I wonder why do we continue to spend millions of dollars to give the impression of flight safety. They do not make us safer, they cost us money and they take away our privacy.
Well, time to go take a look at them first hand. I am on my way to SEA, since I am flying this morning. I will head over to the south terminal to check them out.
Remember, no matter what airport you are at, you have the right to opt out of being scanned.
Check out additional photos from the Seattle PI.
Seattle's Airport will be getting body scanners soon.
Here they come folks! Body scanners are on their way to my home town here in Seattle. I like to think of Seattle as a pretty progressive town and I was hoping that they wouldn’t make their way to my hometown airport. But as the Seattle Times is reporting, they will start to be used in September at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
The TSA hopes to install 450 of the $130,000 to $170,000 machines this year and 500 more the next. Someone is definitely getting rich off all this added security.
Yesterday, our local NPR station KUOW was talking about this subject on The Conversation with Ross Renyolds and I got to put in my two cents on the air. You can listen to the whole discussion here (I come in at about 12:50), which includes an interview with Dwayne Baird, a spokesperson for the TSA.
Remember, you have the option to opt-out of the body scanners and get a full pat down if you choose. I won’t re-hash my love (that is sarcastic) for these machines.
It is time to improve privacy!
I haven’t been able to talk about body scanners for a while and it is about time I bring them up again. When I blog about them or am doing research, I constantly see the same argument, “What’s the big deal, we all have the same parts, get over it.”
The thing is we are not all the same and even if we are, we still have a right to privacy. With my obvious dis-like (maybe that is too nice of a word) for the body scanners, I get people who write me in support and calling me fool. Recently I had a woman write me who is a pre-operative transsexual, meaning she self-defines as a woman, but still has male genitalia. It is absolutely her right to keep her situation private and no one should have the ability to invade her privacy. Talking about privacy, I will call her “Jane” to keep her anonymous for this blog.
I asked Jane what it is like being asked to go through a body scanner and she told me, “that having to go through a body scanner would be particularly difficult for me as the body scanners actually reveal a person’s gender. ” She also explained it becomes even more difficult because she has, “anxiety which makes the thought of using these even more difficult.”
Jane lives in the UK and unlike in the US, passengers cannot opt-out of body scanners. If you get “randomly selected” , you must be scanned or you don’t fly.
Another argument people often use is, “if you don’t like it, don’t fly then.” There are so many reasons why this argument is weak. If you don’t agree with something, you should stand up for what you think is right and try to change the system.
Jane told me she doesn’t fly as much now due to the fear and has missed out on some very important life experiences. “I have relatives in India who I would like to see again and would also like to travel to India to pay my respects to relatives who have died but feel unable to pass through an airport whilst passing through a body scanner is a condition to boarding my flight,” Jane explained.
We are a global society and need to allow people to fly around the world to continue to grow and prosper. We should not become society that violates a person’s privacy, so passengers can get a false sense of security that the body scanners provide.
Trans-gender fliers, disabled passengers, folks with body issues and those that have gone through a traumatic experience involving their body should not have to endure invasive security to be able to function in our society. Is giving up your privacy worth the false sense of security you get going through body scanners? I say absolutely not.