Deadline Met: Backscatter Body Scanners Gone — But Not Forgotten

As first reported by The Gate on January 18, 2013, the 250 full-body scanners which used X-ray backscatter technology to screen passengers have been removed from airport security checkpoints in the United States — successfully having met a deadline of June 1, 2013 — at the expense of the manufacturer, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Deadline Met: Backscatter Body Scanners Gone — But Not Forgotten

However — before you rejoice — there are reports that the Transportation Security Administration may consider returning them to service sometime in the future if the required software upgrade for the full-body backscatter machines is satisfactorily completed.

Members of the Congress of the United States voted to require all full-body scanners to have software which protects the privacy of passengers who are screened by them at airport security checkpoints.

Rapiscan — the manufacturer of the controversial full-body scanners which gained notoriety for producing images of passengers considered by many to be too revealing — reportedly failed to produce a software upgrade by the deadline of June 2013 to prevent the scanner from projecting naked images of passengers similar to the ones shown below.

This is an example of an image projected by a full-body scanner equipped with X-ray backscatter technology. Portions of the image which may be deemed offensive and too graphic by some readers have been blocked out. Source: Transportation Security Administration.

A rival to Rapiscan — American Science and Engineering, Inc. — has its own patented backscatter scanning technology which could be employed by the Transportation Security Administration in the future. Three of its SmartChack systems are being tested by the Transportation Security Administration, according to this press release.

FlyerTalk members wonder if the backscatter full-body scanners were removed from service due to privacy issues — or whether or not the health of passengers also played a role in their removal. Even one FlyerTalk member who is employed by the Transportation Security Administration admits that there may be more to this story than any of us know.

Could there have been payoffs from the manufacturers of millimeter wave full-body scanners — the technology currently being used by the Transportation Security Administration? Although we may never know the answer, that has not stopped some FlyerTalk members from speculating on that as a compelling reason to remove the backscatter full-body scanners.

This image is an example of the outline of a passenger who had been screened by an Advanced Imaging Technology full-body scanner. Source: Transportation Security Administration.

The millimeter wave full-body scanners supposedly also take photographs of you — but they are not displayed graphically, as shown in the image to the right.


As I wrote in a past article, I still have no idea if the full-body imaging scanners still record a more revealing image of your body and store it on some hard disk drive in some back room somewhere — but perhaps I am merely being mildly paranoid. I am also unsure as to the impact on passengers who are scanned with regard to radiation and its effects — although the Transportation Security Administration claims that Advanced Imaging Technology full-body scanners are safe for all passengers.

What are your thoughts about the backscatter full-body scanners being removed from service at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States — for now, anyway?

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