Despite the recent US Transport Safety Administration (TSA) decision to retire Rapiscan’s backscatter full-body scanning machines from US airports, various fears continue to exist about airport scanning systems.
TSA has decided to replace the backscatter scanning machines with millimeter-wave body scanning systems. These millimeter wave machines are not used in some European countries due to a high number of false positives. Having a positive result – which can be caused by many reasons, including folds in clothing or a thin, bony, body structure (some of one’s bones appear as a potential security threat) shown on the scan report necessitates additional security checks. This, of course, causes additional delays in passing through security.
Moreover, there is scant data available regarding the effects of the radio wave technology used by the millimeter wave machines on the human body. While it is within TSA’s regulations that passengers can opt out of the scanning devices and request alternative and less technologically invasive security procedures, this rule is not always acknowledged by the TSA staff at the airport facilities.
The Rapiscan machines raised serious privacy related concerns due to their revealing scanned-body images; they will be retired as the manufacturer is not able to meet a June 2013 Congressional deadline to solve the privacy issue. But are we confident that the replacement machines will be an improvement?