Welcome! We regret to inform you that the Injury Board National News Desk has been discontinued. Feel free to browse around and enjoy our previously published articles, or visit The Injury Blog Network for the latest in personal injury news.

Body Scans Can Store, Send Images Privacy Group Says

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, January 11, 2010 12:19 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Full Body Scans, TSA, Airport Security, Radiation, Pregnant Woman, Children's Health

Full body scanners can store and send images a privacy rights group finds.

Privacy Group Obtains Documents from TSA

LEARN MORE

IMAGE SOURCE: HowStuffWorks Web site- on Backscatter X-rays

This information comes from the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest group focused on privacy.

CNN reports that the group has obtained documents from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which oversees airport security.

The TSA specified in 2008 documents that full-body scanners at airports must have the capability to store and send images.

The images provide a graphic outline and details of the body to show whether someone is carrying any metal, plastics, or potentially explosives. That opens up the possibility for abuse by TSA employees, according to EPIC's director. 

How does that square with a TSA video that assures passengers the “system has no way to save transmit or print the image?”

EPIC says the ability to store and send exists when the machines are in the test mode.

TSA is promoting the machines as a way to prevent the potential for explosives being brought aboard US airlines such as the Christmas attempt on the Northwest Flight over Detroit.

The TSA should suspend further deployment of the machines until the privacy questions are resolved, says EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg, reports CNN. EPIC is pursuing a lawsuit to obtain additional documents about the machines.

40 machines are currently being used at 19 airports domestically and an additional 300 machines should be in use at U.S. airports by 2011.

Body Scans and Radiation

Much concern has been discussed about the radiation danger from body scans, especially in light of recent news about radiation exposure from excessive mammograms and CT scans.

TSA implements two types of technologies. The millimeter wave uses low-level radio waves in the millimeter-wave spectrum to generate images based on the energy reflected from the body, reports Newsweek. The backscatter, the second technology being used by TSA, uses a low-energy X-ray beam around the body, delivering less than 10 micrograms of radiation per scan, according to How Stuff Works.

The American College of Radiology says a “traveler would require more than 1,000 such scans in a year to reach the radiation dosage equivalent to one standard chest X-ray.” How Stuff works says it would take 5,000 scans.

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, in a report, says 2,500 backscatter scans per year would produce an “effective dose” of radiation. The ionizing radiation is equivalent to one percent or less of the radiation in a dental X-ray, reports the New York Times. Millimeter waves use less powerful, non-ionizing radiation that does not pose the same risk.

However, the report says there are several groups of individuals who are significantly more sensitive to ionizing radiation than the average person and may need special consideration. They include infants and children, individuals with genetically based hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation, and the developing embryo or fetus in a pregnant woman.

Three to five percent of the population may be more sensitive to ionizing radiation.

The FDA requested that the report consider the concept of “informed consent” so individuals would understand how much radiation they would be exposed to. Primarily the education would take the form of a comparison to 15 minutes of natural background radiation from air travel compared to the scans.

ABC News reports by comparison, if a passenger flew four hours and had a two hour layover in Denver, the scan would be equal to about one seventieth of the overall radiation exposure the passenger received from proximity to the sun and the high altitudes, reports ABC.

That translates to about 1.6 additional cases of cancer per 100 million people. #


5 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Steve Lombardi
Monday, January 11, 2010 2:04 PM EST

As a nation we have to answer the question as to what is more important, physical privacy or the threat of terrorism. It doesn't seem to me we can have it both ways. If we choose to not look inside and under a person's clothes then what happens if the plane blows up? Do those who want privacy say that's just the price we pay for being modest? Or do we offer two airline services: The one that honors privacy and another that flies ontime and get's there in one piece. I'm guessing, but the one that honors privacy is probably a good stock to short.

Anonymous User
Posted by Keith
Monday, January 11, 2010 6:43 PM EST

Benjamin Franklin :"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Two reasons to forego this kind of technology: 1) There are serious, demonstratable health hazards to some groups of people(Elderely, Children, Pregnant mothers, etc) that would require a seperate screening process entirely, compounding cost and delays.

2) Privacy. These scans are of a sufficient detail to equate to nude photographic images. Most people would not dress\undress in public in front of strangers, let alone allow someone to photograph them and save/send the images.
No amount of rules or regulations will prevent the eventual misuse of a technology. The fact that the TSA says the images cannot be saved\sent but in fact the reality is opposite is also misleading and proves the misuse is already occuring,

Anonymous User
Posted by Jack
Monday, January 11, 2010 6:44 PM EST

Benjamin Franklin :"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Two reasons to forego this kind of technology: 1) There are serious, demonstratable health hazards to some groups of people(Elderely, Children, Pregnant mothers, etc) that would require a seperate screening process entirely, compounding cost and delays.

2) Privacy. These scans are of a sufficient detail to equate to nude photographic images. Most people would not dress\undress in public in front of strangers, let alone allow someone to photograph them and save/send the images.
No amount of rules or regulations will prevent the eventual misuse of a technology. The fact that the TSA says the images cannot be saved\sent but in fact the reality is opposite is also misleading and proves the misuse is already occuring,

Posted by PresidentSuit
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 12:22 AM EST

You don’t seriously think an agency that can’t keep bombers off planes can keep your nude pictures off the internet, do you?

Anonymous User
Posted by Bob
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2:59 PM EST

I don't believe that I will lose any sleep over the possibility of a TSA employee being "titillated" by a glowing blue image of what appears to be more like a mannequin than a person. As far as the subject of "saved images" is concerned...I could do more to embarrass someone with Adobe Photoshop and a snapshot...were I so inclined ;)

The issue of radiation, however, is a concern and should be mitigated.

What upsets me more is our adversaries' keen understanding of how easy it is to trigger expensive reactions to singular incidents...truly, the price we pay for a free society is very high in dollars.
Their stated goal of "bankrupting America" could be their best strategy...and God help us, it might be succeeding.

Comments for this article are closed.

About the National News Desk

Our mission is to seek the complete truth and provide a full and fair account of the events and issues that surround personal safety, accident prevention, and injury recovery.  We are committed to serving the public with honesty and integrity in these efforts.

Hurt in an accident? Contact an Injury Board member

Subscribe to Blog Updates

Enter your email address if you would like to receive email notifications when comments are made on this post.

Email address

Subscribe

RSS Feed

Add the National News Desk to your favorite RSS reader

Add to Google Reader Add to myYahoo Add to myMSN Add to Bloglines Add to Newsgator Add to Netvibes Add to Pageflakes