Browsing Tag: Body Scanners

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!

Image: Mirror.co.uk
A passenger gets scanned in a body scanner.

A passenger gets scanned in a body scanner.

Ah body scanners. One of my favorite topics to write about (or hate on). If you have missed out on previous posts let me re-cap why I don’t like them:

* They violate our privacy. Not just people seeing your almost-naked bodies, but those that might have a disability and really don’t want some TSA agent to see it.
* They can be avoided. All you have to do is say, “no,” and you can get a pat-down. Not even trying, I avoided the body scanner and a pat-down.
* I hate the, “what about the children,” argument, but do you want your child’s scans looked at by some stranger?
* They already have been, and I assure you will continue to be, abused.
* There is now talk that these scanners give you more radiation than once thought.
* They cost a lot and do nothing more than provide a false sense of security for passengers.

Now Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced a bill to require all commercial airports to have and use body scanners by 2013. The bill is called the Securing Aircraft From Explosives Responsibly: Advanced Imaging Recognition Act. If that is too long for you, there is a fun acronym: S.A.F.E.R. A.I.R. Act. I wonder how much time they spent on the acronym versus seeing how this bill would really make passengers safer.

The Senators feel the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been spending too much time testing out the body scanners and need to get them installed ASAP nationwide. Currently the scanners are installed in only 48 airports across the US.

The bill requires that body images “cannot be stored, transferred, copied or printed,” and it forbids security personnel from having cameras near the machinery. Of course we all know that every TSA agent has followed all the rules already associated with the body scanners (that is sarcasm). I understand that most TSA employees take their job very seriously and do not abuse the system, but it only takes a few to make the whole agency look bad.

I have written a lot about these scanners and seem to have people just argue that they are better than nothing or if you don’t like them, don’t fly. I haven’t seen how the system is currently planned to be set up, how it makes us any safer. I would love to be proved wrong on this.

Thank you Chris Salman for point this out!

Source: RawStory.com Image: CRozeman
ou can see a woman being scanned. The TSA agent who yelled at me is stating in the metal detector.

You can see a woman being scanned. The TSA agent who yelled at me is standing in the metal detector.

I have made my opinion on body scanners quite clear. If you have missed it, bottom line is I don’t like them. They violate our privacy and passengers are able to avoid them and request a pat-down, making them pointless.

On Sunday I flew from Tampa to Seattle via Denver and got my first view of the body scanners in action at Tampa International Airport. The scanner is not too imposing, but it is obviously something different. There are a few body images by the scanner that show you what it does, but they are small and people are rushed by them.

The whole time I was waiting in the security line, the body scanner wasn’t being used. By the time I was taking off my shoes, they had started pushing passengers into the scanner versus the metal detector.

I started to get excited. Not to try it out, but to respectfully decline going through the body scanner and get a pat-down instead. Well maybe excited is not the right word. The thought of having some stranger feel around my body isn’t  great, but I wanted to take a little stand against the privacy invading machines.

I was flying with my girlfriend, Amy, and even though she knew about the scanners (or had heard me rant about them from time to time), she really didn’t understand my true dislike of them. The two people before us were told to go in the scanners. Then I was next, but I started going to the metal detector instead. I was waiting to be told I had to do the scanner or pulled aside to get a pat-down, but I was not. I just walked through the metal detector while the people in front of me and behind me were all forced into the body scanner. Now that is a big hole in security.

From what I have read, a passenger who does not do the body scanner, must be patted down. However it seemed unorganized and I don’t think the TSA agent at the metal detector realized people were being pushed into the body scanner.

Amy wasn’t so lucky. She felt rushed and not really sure what was going on and didn’t decline being scanned. They made sure she had no foreign items on her, she had to raise her hands and the scanner went around her and then she had to stand outside of the scanner with a TSA agent holding her  in a roped off area (everyone had to do this). He was waiting for someone in another area to view her body images and confirm she was clean. He was talking to them via radio, but they didn’t seem to be working. It took about a minute for him to get a response that the two females could go (Amy was one of them). I trust it was a radio error and those images weren’t on the screen any longer than they needed to be.

After I was done and Amy was waiting to hear she was clear to go, I was taking some photos of her and the scanner. This is when the TSA sprung into action. From the metal detector I heard, “sir, you cannot do that.” I confirmed he was talking to me and that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the body scanner. I am not exactly sure if there are rules against taking photos. I guess someone might  take photos and learn how to beat the system? Well I don’t need to take photos to see how the system doesn’t really work, you just had to ask for a pat-down or in my case, just go through the metal detector. They never came over to take my photos or talk to me, so obviously it couldn’t have been that big of a deal to them.

What doesn’t make sense is they took action against me for taking photos, but no one noticed I didn’t go through the body scanner nor get a pat-down. It is so inconsistent. By no means was I trying to do this on purpose, but I imagine similar experiences are happening like this all around the world.

I know I talk negatively about these scanners, but I feel there is some hope in the near future. There are body scanners with Automated Target Recognition that have the ability where no human actually sees your image. The computer looks at your body scan and if there are any foreign items, it will flag you and the TSA will inspect you. There is a display of a stick figure only. If they had this version, which didn’t violate privacy, and it was required, not optional, I could get behind the body scanners. But until then, I will continue to voice my strong opinion against them and about the inconsistencies of their usage. However, the TSA says there is no system they feel meets their security needs yet.

TSA badge

TSA badge

Fort Wayne International Airport is the latest airport to get the full-body scanners, which brings the total US airports to 23. I have not hidden my opinion that full-body scanners are a bad choice due to the fact that they violate a passenger’s privacy and can be easily avoided.

Last week a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker at Miami International Airport ended up being arrested, after a co-worker teased him about his genitals.

Rolando Negrin  was being scanned as a training exercise when a co-worker started to repeatedly harass him for the size of his “manhood.” Witnesses say Negrin lost it and started to hit his co-worker with a police baton. Negrin could be heard saying in Spanish, “get on your knees or I will kill you and you better apoligise [sic].”

The TSA has a zero-violence policy and stated, “we are investigating to determine whether other officers may have violated procedures in a training session with coworkers and committed professional misconduct.”

The TSA likes to note that this incident was internal and did not involve the general public. However, we have already seen the body scanners abused in public once and as they are used more, I am sure we will see them abused again.

When scanning passengers, the TSA says that a screener views the live image in a remote location and the images will be permanently deleted, never being stored. However, in a letter to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the TSA states they have 2,000 test images stored, using TSA personal, at its test facility. This means that the system has the capability to store images, not to mention workers could sneak in cameras or phones.

EPIC has tried to gain access to the test images to see how privacy might be violated, but the TSA has refused to release them. EPIC has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security under the Freedom of Information Act seeking details about the government’s use of advanced imaging technology. Many fear if the scans are publicly released, it will allow people to learn how to beat the system. Right now the system is really easy to beat, just refuse to be scanned and ask for a pat-down.

How much is all this wonderful security costing you, the tax payers? Only $6Billion per year. According to Stanford Daily, when airport security was still privatized in 2001, it only cost $700Million. Even in comparing with 2001 prices, that is $700million versus $4.6Billion.

It is frustrating to see stories like this continue to pop-up. I am sure this will not be the last story of a passenger’s rights being violated. Stay tuned…

Image: Tektum

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