Millimeter Wave Scanner - Privacy Concerns

Privacy Concerns

See also: Full body scanner#Controversies

Privacy advocates are concerned about the use of active millimeter wave technology because it effectively implements routine and, in many cases, mandatory virtual strip searches. It allows screeners to see the surface of the skin under clothing, prosthetics including breast prostheses, and other medical equipment normally hidden, such as colostomy bags. Passive millimeter wave devices do not have the same privacy concerns because the images produced with passive screening technology expose no anatomical details.

While the radiation itself cannot distinguish between private and non-private areas, software imaging technology can mask specific body parts. Proposed remedies for privacy concerns include scanning only people who are independently detected to be carrying contraband, or developing technology to mask genitals and other private parts. In some locations, travelers have the choice between the body scan or a traditional "patdown". In locations such as the UK and Australia, the scans are mandatory.

In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) claimed to have taken steps to address privacy objections. TSA claimed that the images captured by the machines were not stored. On the other hand, the U.S. Marshals Service admitted that it had saved thousands of images captured from a Florida checkpoint. The officer sitting at the machine does not see the image; rather that screen shows only whether the viewing officer has confirmed that the passenger has cleared. Conversely, the officer who views the image does not see the person being scanned by the device. In some locations, updated software has removed the necessity of a separate officer in a remote location. These units now generate a generic image of a person, with specific areas of suspicion highlighted by boxes. If no suspicious items are detected by the machine, a green screen instead appears indicating the passenger is cleared.

Concerns remain about alternative ways to capture and disseminate the image. Additionally, the protective steps often do not entirely address the underlying privacy concerns. Subjects may object to anyone viewing them in a state of effective undress, even if it is not the agent next to the machine, or even if the image is not retrievable.

Claims that images are immediately destroyed were questioned after Indian film star Shahrukh Khan said that his image was circulated by airport staff at Heathrow in London. This comment appears to be a joke according to one UK media outlet, but reports of full-body scanner images being improperly and perhaps illegally saved and disseminated continue to emerge.

Read more about this topic:  Millimeter Wave Scanner

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