Browsing Tag: Body Scanners

A backscatter X-ray body scanner recently installed at Sea-Tac Airport. Photo by Aubrey Cohen/

A backscatter X-ray body scanner recently installed at Sea-Tac Airport. Photo by Aubrey Cohen/

There has been a call to boycott all TSA body scanners tomorrow November 24th to protest the TSA’s handling of airport security. I do not want to see people missing their flights from this protest, but I feel it is important to let the TSA know that their actions have gone too far. No matter if you agree or disagree with the TSA’s body scanners or enhanced pat downs, please remember to BE NICE.

If you are traveling over Thanksgiving, make sure to arrive at the airport early (like super early) and smile. People are normally on edge on the busiest travel day as it is and if people are boycotting the body scanners it will make things worse. Be polite to the passengers around you and also the TSA agents. Remember those people who are requiring you to go through the body scanners or conducting pat downs are just doing their job; they are not the policy makers. If you are asked to go through a body scanner, be polite and let tell them, “with all due respect, I am opting out of the body scanner.” It is alright to let them know you do not agree with the pat-downs, but how many of those TSA agents really want to be feeling your privates on Thanksgiving anyhow?

It will be easy to become frustrated and angry, but just  do not take it out on the TSA agents. Take a moment to write to the TSA directly and let them know how you feel. You can leave a comment on their blog, send a message through their TalktoTSA program or email your local congressional representatives.

Good luck and have a great Thanksgiving.

Image by Aubrey Cohen/SeattlePI
A Transportation Security Administration employee demonstrates a backscatter X-ray body scanner, following the directions of a screener, at Sea-Tac Airport.

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, ’œIf 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.

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 turn up the privacy!

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.

A person checks a body scan image.

A person checks a body scan image.

Some folks might have no problem having their privacy violated to fly on a plane, but how about a child? Do you know who the TSA agent is viewing those partly-nude images of your child? What if you are not even there with your child?

Recently a 12 year old girl was put through the scanner without her parents consent at Tampa International Airport (the same location where I avoided the scanners). As the girl describes, going into the body scanner happened quickly and she was not aware what the machine was.

The girl was traveling with her friend and her friend’s parents back to her home in Baltimore. The St. Petersburg Times was able to get a phone interview with the 12-year old passenger about her experience:

“Okay, I was coming home to Baltimore, Md., from Siesta Key, Fla., and I was with my friend and her parents and I was going to this airport security check.

I put my bag through, and they pulled me aside and told me to go over here. I thought it was some high-tech scan and I walked right through it and this lady said ‘”Hold on, you can’t just walk through this thing. Put your feet on the yellow footsteps and make a triangle above your head.” I guess it was so they could see my whole body.

I heard a beep and she said, ‘Okay you can leave.’

I heard one of the guards say ‘affirmative on the female,’ and I knew they were talking about me. And that made me worried.

I couldn’t see my friend and her dad, and I was really worried that I was separated from them. I was trying to look happy when I saw them but inside I was really scared.”

I think the parents might be overreacting a bit, they took their daughter to a doctor to have her checked out, but I think there are some important things to consider with this instance. I am more concerned with someone’s child being scanned against their will, since the child does not know what is going on with the body scanners. Heck, most adults don’t know what is going on with the body scanners, but at least they are old enough to be aware of what the body scanners are.

“Our daughter was scared and didn’t understand what was happening,” said Michelle Nemphos, the mother of the girl. “In essence they conducted a strip search on a 12-year-old girl without her parents present to advocate for her.”

Yes, there are little signs showing what the body scanner does, but is that enough? The images it shows are small and passengers do not understand these machines are optional. Even if you think body scanners are a good idea, do you think children should be scanned as well?

Thanks Sam for pointing out this story!