Just found a piece by William Saletan on Slate.com 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.”