September 8, 2010
You can’t make this stuff up. In response to the outrage over naked body scanners now appearing at an ever increasing number of airports in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration plans to introduce technology that will show a generic figure rather than an actual image of a passenger’s naked body parts on the intrusive machines.
“The new display would mark sections of a person’s body that need to be checked,” reports Bloomberg. Every passenger will generate an avatar that “looks like a guy wearing a baseball cap,” said Peter Kant, the vice president of Rapiscan, makers of the scanners.
As of August 27, 194 of the devices were in use at 51 U.S. airports, an almost fivefold increase from six months ago. 28 airports getting scanners in the second half of this year include New York’s Kennedy and Philadelphia, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Houston, Miami, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Seattle, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in July. Obama has pledged $734 million to deploy airport scanners.
The TSA put implementation of naked body scanners in high gear after the patsy Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab lit his underwear on fire on Christmas day of last year on a Northwest Airlines flight on approach to Detroit from Amsterdam.
The avatar scheme proposed by Rapiscan and the TSA is merely a clumsy attempt to get passengers to accept the idea that the state must use intrusive technology to protect them from terrorists.
In August, we reported that the TSA admits the machines routinely save and store images.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Jeffrey Sural, an attorney for Alston & Bird LLP in Washington, said the new cartoon avatar of a homeboy in a ball cap is “a pretty substantial development” and is “something that TSA has wanted.”
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said revising the machine software “makes a lot of sense” from an engineering standpoint. The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the TSA over the machines.
The software upgrade, however, will not eliminate the documented health risk posed by the machines.
According to scientists at Columbia University, naked body — soon to be avatar — scanners will likely contribute to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma which affects the head and neck.
“If there are increases in cancers as a result of irradiation of children, they would most likely appear some decades in the future. It would be prudent not to scan the head and neck,” said Dr. David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s center for radiological research, in June.
Brenner has urged medical authorities to look at his work, pointing to the dangerous notion of mass scanning millions of people without proper oversight.