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Whole Body Imaging Security at Airports Is Controversial

Airport Security: They Get to See You Naked!


Did you think taking off your belt, shoes, and sometimes dignity at airport security was the end of it? Think again. It turns out that due to a newish technology, airport security can basically see images of you naked.

Privacy advocates are attempting to stop the US Department of Homeland Security from using whole-body imaging, a technology that is being used now in 19 airports and which displays a blurry but distinctly naked image of a passenger's body with the face blurred out.

The machines "detect both metallic and nonmetallic threat items to keep passengers safe," according to a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration, and some say the machines speed up the otherwise annoying and time-consuming process of metal detectors or pat-downs. To find out what privacy advocates are up in arms about, and to watch a demo of whole body imaging in a video, read more

Privacy advocates, from the ACLU to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, say that although the person working the machine never sees the image, and the person looking at the image never sees the passenger (they're in a remote location), there are larger concerns.

Where are the legal disclosures? What if TSA changes their policies down the road? The computer doesn't store the images, but what if that changes later? The machines are being used now in some courthouses in the US, and opponents claim that it's only a matter of time they show up in mundane spaces like malls.

According to one ACLU lawyer, "A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices. People shouldn't be humiliated by their government."

Has surveillance gotten out of hand? Do you feel safer, or think technologies like whole-body imaging are worth it?

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