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Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

Posted May 21, 2009 9:56 AM by Sharkles

Flying on a plane can be an enjoyable experience that is often hampered by the restrictive security precautions implemented since 2001. In addition to metal detectors and security pat-downs, there are limits on bringing liquids onto planes. Combine that with the increased cost of flying, and air travel has turned-off many people.

But what if there were fewer hurdles to jump through at the airport? Less metal detectors and no pat downs? What about the ability to bring liquids onboard again?

A New Alternative

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants to replace walk-through metal detectors at airports with new, whole-body scanning machines. The catch? These scanning machines transmit an image of your naked body to an operator in a remote location, where the image is checked for "anomalies" and then promptly deleted.

Full-body scanning machines are being developed as part of an "ambitious technology initiative". They range in cost from $100,000 to $170,000 each. The new X-ray technology could be capable of electronically-detecting explosive chemicals, thus allowing airports to drop their "3.4 ounces or less"' rule for liquids.

Such scanning machines are not unheard of. Until now, however, it was assumed that
they would be used only for small numbers of passengers, or for secondary inspections. But the machine's excellent performance has changed everything.

Two-Second Scanning

Critics have questioned whether body scanning would really decrease the wait time at airport checkpoints. According to Robin Kane, acting chief technology officer for the TSA, the new machines move people through airport security at rates similar to those of metal detectors.

TSA spokesperson Sterling Payne describes the process as being "very, very quick; the scan is about two seconds… They'll tell you the position to stand in, there's the quick scan, and then you step out of the machine and wait for the resolution, which happens in a separate room in another part of the checkpoint."

Pilot Testing Yields Mixed Reviews

Full-body scanning machines have been tested at checkpoints in approximately 19 U.S. airports so far. When passengers arrive, they are given the option of getting a pat down or going through the body scanner - with full knowledge that a naked image of them would be seen by a screener.

Reports from across the country suggest that many air travlers are fine with transmitting their image - seeing it as the ultimate safety precaution. According to Kane, the initial results from the pilot tests were so successful that using these machines as standard checkpoint detectors would make sense.

Of course, not everyone agrees that full-body images are the best solution. Bruce Schneier, a security technology consultant, referred to the technology as a "physically invasive strip-search" in an interview with The New York Times. He also questioned the agency's claim that the pictures were erased. "How do we know they're not going to be storing those images?" he asked. "We're taking their word for it."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is also cautious of the technology. Their concern is that body scanning is overly intrusive, as images of mastectomies, catheter tubes, and other personal items or conditions would be projected.

After reading many reports about the full-body scanning machines, I feel that there are fair number of people for and against this technology. As a person who is generally wary of most security technologies, I'm torn on this one. While half of me thinks the scan is pretty harmless, the other half thinks of the book No Place to Hide – and that creeps me out a bit.

What do you think?

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/business/07road.html?hpw

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2008-06-05-bodyscan_N.htm

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/17/eveningnews/main563797.shtml

http://www.mid-day.com/news/2009/apr/020409-scannerprivacy.htm

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/400431/the_new_rules_about_bringing_liquid.html

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#1

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/21/2009 10:21 AM

My first thought was no big deal, even after looking at the pictures of the scans, but then I looked up some other pictures. It seems there are a few different technologies for these scans.

The "millimeter wave scan" doesn't seem to be so intrusive but the "backscatter" x-ray scan might be.

The millimeter wave scan doesn't use X-ray technology but the backscatter scan does.

I know a lot of people will not want full body X-rays every time they fly. There is a reason they put lead sheilding on you at the Dr.'s office.

I'd be more worried about the health effects of the scan than someone looking at the image.... unless of course it was these guys.

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#16
In reply to #1

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 3:19 PM

There is a reason they put lead sheilding on you at the Dr.'s office.

What was once lead is being replaced by depleted uranium at the Dr.'s office

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#2

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/21/2009 12:51 PM

It doesn't bother me a bit, and if it gets me through security sooner, I'm all for it.

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#3

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/21/2009 2:20 PM

" to an operator in a remote location "

And in the case of airports nearby the Miss Universe contest, several operators.

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#4

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/21/2009 3:48 PM

I'm not sure how I feel about this (instinctively, I feel like it's invasive to a person's privacy). I also don't think it will speed up security procedures that much. It seems like airport security is always going to be a pain. And if the screener is in a remote location, couldn't there be problems with systems going down? It's just another opportunity for error if you ask me.

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#5

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/21/2009 11:24 PM

In 20 years no one will give this a second thought. Really, how tightly wound do you have to be to care that someone might see a fuzzy outline of your who-ha in order to keep the airplane you are about to board in the air and headed to its original destination? Much ado over nothing.

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#6

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 12:19 AM

I feel sorry for the security personnel who have to watch this all day. Look at your average lineup waiting for the check. How many of them do YOU want to see naked? Damn few I bet, and even then you can get inured to it all. Anyone on the staff that had a problem would go bug-bats right quick (Huh... Chief, I think Igor is taking his work a little to seriously).

Me? I don't care, as long as I don't have to carry explosives aboard. There are sniffers that can discern explosives. I've had to pass through them and a magnetometer every day, while my lunch box and shoes were being scanned. The real problem is the newbies that hold up the flow by not understanding why or what the procedure is.

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#7

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 12:20 AM

I find this going to far, a metal detector and a hand scanner should suffice also a sniffer for unwanted chemicals and it is ok.

It is going overboard with the terrorist scare

why not just a waterboarding interview? it is cheaper and all lies will be revealed

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 1:31 AM

I have a carbon fiber knife that will whiz right past the metal detector and cut someone's throat like a razor. Duct taped to my chest I can walk right in with it. However, not with these systems, it would stand out like a sore thumb.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 3:08 AM

why do you need a Carbon fiber knife planning a hijack?

Every sharp pointy thing could be used as a weapon, if you not mind these invasive procedures i suggest all passengers also get a rectal (and female parts) investigation to make sure there are no hidden weapons there

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 4:36 AM

Oh, I see you misunderstand my comment. The point was to destroy your argument that a metal detector was adequate. And yes, sadly, if it gets to the point where rectal and vaginal exams are required to keep the plane in the air I am sad to hear that you would rather die than suffer such indignity. How about this, just don't fly and let the rest of us choose to undergo whatever is required to use the technology safely.

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#19
In reply to #13

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 8:48 PM

let the rest of us choose to undergo whatever is required to use the technology safely.

Scant probability the future holds choices for you

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 11:38 PM

Really? You've done the calculations and made this determination? On what basis have you ascertained my "Scant probability"? Does the expression of opinion now determine our future? Is this some mystical thing? Or are you just omniscient? I don't remember anything in the constitution about our rights to get on an airplane, owned by someone else, (that we would sue in a heartbeat if they let us get hurt) assuring us of the right to possibly be hiding something. You don't have total freedom ever, never did. You want to drive a car, there are restrictions. Is this a puritan view of some kind that we can't use state of the art to determine the safety of a group of people entering a risk environment by whatever means we have. Why aren't you up in arms about metal detectors. You do realize they subject your body to electromagnetic energy that it wouldn't otherwise be subjected to, yes? What about a pat down? Someone else touching you must be pretty invasive, no?

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/23/2009 11:41 AM

The post refers to your comment.

My position on technological advancements is to except change generally. This form of surveillance is essentially far less invasive than any other known method and as software is produced much of the image viewing will be by machine only.

I think it's very unlikely money will be allocated for intense storage of images or only for those meeting certain profiles etc..

More over I concur with your view concerning individual rights in the vein that we can choose not to be searched and be prohibited from participation.

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#23
In reply to #13

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/24/2009 8:38 PM

I just don't like my privacy invaded, and the way that every passenger is treated like a criminal. there must be other ways (like heat camera's or looking for suspicious behaviour and so 0n) and i haven't seen a new technology that hasen't been abused yet.

No my problem is that the way this whole Terrorist scare goes way out of propertion.

i am from Europe and we have a long history of Terrorist organisations (IRA, ETA, RAF, JRA and so on) but i haven't seen the same amount of panic in europe after all these terrorists attack

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/24/2009 8:55 PM

Seems as though keeping people on edge is the issue.

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/24/2009 11:55 PM

Well no one likes their privacy invaded, including me. However, this is public transportation and no one compels us to use it. If someone came to your home then that is certainly different. The situation is what it is and unfortunately it is as a result of persistent abuse by criminals and terrorists that force our loss of freedom on all fronts in the name of greater security. And certainly governments take advantage of these opportunities to clamp down on civil rights every chance the get. I guess that I just don't see showing the outline of my body to a person in a room who doesn't know me from Jack as being such an issue. But then I have done nude modeling for a women's college drawing class too so there you go. However I did get paid for that, and they gave me ice cream too. That was what I call a good day.

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#18
In reply to #11

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 4:37 PM

I read several years back that the powers that be in the old UK were looking at banning people from carrying butcher knives. That would seriously hamper many housewives to say nothing of butchers. Next we will ban the carrying of sharp pointed sticks.

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#15
In reply to #10

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 10:55 AM

Now you'll need a carbon-fiber gas-grenade in the shape of a mechanical heart duct-taped to your chest.

Better yet, if your avatar is an accurate representation of you, you can just kick in the face! Soon enough, only these people will be able to get through security...(and they could still head-butt!)

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#8

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 12:57 AM

I don't care, security is the first.

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#9

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 1:19 AM

It will be intrusive but there is nothing a passenger will be able do about.

But you do have a choice if you must be there in person: either drive, take a bus or train, or charter a plane.

Newer video conferencing software and affordable large displays, however, will make traveling a luxury in the future.

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#12

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 3:51 AM

If it keeps the plane in the air I'm all for it. Anyone who can face the reality of seeing this old body at 06:00 is welcome to look.

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#14

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 6:56 AM

I'm torn between the invasion of privacy issue and technology that would fill a gap in security. Do we really need these machines because the current security in place seems to be doing an effective job already.

It is we, the travelers, who will have to pay the hefty price tag for all these new scanners. This is a Gen-I system and no sooner the equipment is paid for, a Gen-II system will be available for delivery. So, we travelers will keep paying and paying and paying. [p/]

There was a previous comment stating that a carbon fiber knife taped to the chest will avoid detection. This just goes to show that perpetrators will always find a way to circumvent current security that is in place. Thank you

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#17

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 3:20 PM

Millimeter wave scan not just another protection at our expense ploy.

All my life there has been only a few that showed any interest in my naked body other than a passing fancy

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#20

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/22/2009 9:41 PM

Well, it's a tough call.

How about as fair play, whomever gets to look at you naked through your clothes, has their same sort of image posted to look at, while they look at yours?

All day long in every line everybody looking at pictures of everybody, the watchers, and the watched.

Sounds disgusting doesn't it.

Want to try it?

What about them Sky Marshalls? That's the guy with the Glock and Ceramic bullets. How come we don't get to see him naked?

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#26

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/25/2009 6:41 AM

First of all, it is sad that we live in a world where all of this is necessary in order to make sure that a very very small segment of the population is prevented from killing people and causing mayhem.

Having said that I am a very big believer in engineering solutions for this sort of thing.

However I think this is a cop out. If they can design such a cleaver device, it would not take much more effort add enough computer automation such that humans need never get involved until an alarm goes off and the passenger setting off the alarm requires a secondary screening.

A computer never gets bored, and after watching bored and dazed security agents at airports looking at x-rays of peoples stuff, I am sure that tons of stuff that should not be allowed through security gets through every day. Based on all the stuff I carry, my pack alone should trigger a secondary screen every time, but it never does and I fly every week.

The human element must be eliminated from airport security screening for the sake of both efficiency and true accuracy. As a side benefit, if a computer is doing the screening, the whole issue regarding the images goes away as well.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/25/2009 12:30 PM

Well said...

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#28
In reply to #26

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/25/2009 8:50 PM

This i can agree on

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#29

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/27/2009 10:05 AM

Hello Kate,

I really enjoyed your blog - very informative. There are additional tools that could be used to either make this scanner more effect or less harmful to people. IDOI has developed a device called the MagShoe; which allows you to step on it & scans all the way up to your calves for any potential weapons; the point of this device is to be less intrusive for travelers while offering the a better safety feature. Interested to see if you have ever heard of it or seen it in you travels? If you have would be excited to get any feedback from you or any of your subscriber. Come visit us - www.idosecurityinc.com and comments/suggestions are welcomed.

Thank,

Michael

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#30

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

05/28/2009 8:49 AM

*Air travel is the most preferred mode as for as time saving and comfort is concerned, Bullet trains being the next choice.The lengthy security check up system is felt uncomfortable having paid high fares, but no doubt safety can not be under looked.

*Whereas technologies are intended for positive usage, the smart man-made evils like smugglers, terrorists, hijackers, and silly rule evaders like people carrying banned items.

*Smart sensing machines for fool proof detection, ensuring total safety is no doubt a welcome feature-the optional choice on second line limited checking, time saving, seems promising.

*One fact is sure, machines are unbiased and make no adjustments like humans for favours.

*The inconvenient aspects like naked view by remote viewer point etc can be very well modified by features like-lady to lady view, possible screen view filters, timely erasure of data so that passengers never get embarrassed.

*It can also be justified like the patient getting examined by a doctor, that no one hesitates, and the machine does it without stripping one.

*A smart machine intended for time saving and ensuring fool proof safety is the best choice to locate smart evaders and ensure safer flights.

*If it works well the same may be implemented in all sensitive and vulnerable areas.

Good Attempt and timely induction

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#31

Re: Grin and Bare It for Airport Security

09/11/2009 10:57 PM

So here's when we in America say looking at naked children is ok...

Will it be abused? Yes you can count on it.

Any statistics on this? how many terrorists have been stopped from this safety measure?

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