airport scans update

8 04 2009

Just found a piece by William Saletan on where he does a really good job expressing the concern I feel over the new airport scanning technology.

You’ll need to read the whole thing to get the context, but a couple of key points:

Initially, Saletan endorsed the technology, largely because it was less invasive than a pat-down and because faces and private parts would be obscured in the images. He writes:

Now I’m having second thoughts. I still like the technology. It’s the people behind it who worry me. Yes, the scan is less invasive than the pat-down. But TSA has just demonstrated its ability and willingness to move the goalposts. When TSA offered pat-downs as the alternative to body scans in secondary screening, the scan sounded pretty good. Now TSA is offering pat-downs as the alternative to body scans in primary screening, and again, the scan sounds better. And if TSA announces tomorrow that pat-downs are the new alternative for all train or bus passengers, body scans will seem preferable there, too. Anywhere we’re threatened with pat-downs, we’ll settle for body scans. Where does it end?


The TSA is no longer talking about a “privacy algorithm” that obscures faces and genitals. The obscured areas (the genitals specifically, since the face is typically readily visible) provide “gaps” where terrorists could hide things from the scans. In fact, according to the TSA, this has already happened. Saletan writes:

In other words, any detail omitted by airport screeners—a blurred crotch in the body scan, an untouched groin during the pat-down—becomes a “gap” exploited by terrorists or testers, which must then be closed.

“The enhanced pat-down will be used only after all other screening methods have been used and the alarm remains unresolved,” TSA promised last year. It added: “This new procedure will affect a very small percentage of travelers.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what you said about the body scans. Just put on the gloves and get it over with.

I find myself feeling pretty conflicted about this. Again, I don’t object to the body scans per se. But I’m concerned about the sort of presumption of guilt that is implied and the invasion of personal “space.”


nudity at the airport

7 04 2009

A couple of years back, I remember hearing about a new type of scanner that was being planned for use in some airports, and which would use “backscatter x-rays” to penetrate clothing and, essentially, allow security personnel to view the naked bodies of airline passengers. (I wrote a brief post about it at my other blog.)

Now, it turns out that those tests were so successful, that “the Transportation Security Administration plans to replace the walk-through metal detectors at airport checkpoints with whole-body imaging machines — the kind that provide an image of the naked body.”

more fake pics

24 02 2009

Superimposed pictures of Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong are making the rounds on the Internet….”

composite nude photo of actress causes outrage

22 02 2009

A “composite nude photo” of a Korean actress has surfaced. Fans are upset by this, and justifiably so, I think. It’s one thing to willingly display or distribute nude photos of oneself, but when other people put together fake images, for whatever purpose, the subject’s privacy is violated.