Privacy Group Obtains Documents from TSA
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. #