independent

Monday 21 April 2014

US to remove naked X-ray scanners

Volunteers pass through the first full body scanner at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (AP/M Spencer Green)

Airport scanners with their all-too revealing body images are to be scrapped, America's transport authority says.

The Transportation Security Administration said the controversial scanners that used a low-dose X-ray would be gone by June because the company that makes them cannot resolve the privacy issues.

Other airport body scanners, which produce a generic outline instead of a naked image, are staying.

The US government rapidly stepped up its use of body scanners after a man sneaked explosives on to a flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

At first, both types of scanners showed travellers naked. The idea was that security workers could spot both metallic objects like guns as well as non-metallic items such as plastic explosives. But the scanners also showed every other detail of the passenger's body.

The TSA defended the scanners, saying the images could not be stored and were seen only by a security worker who did not interact with the passenger. But the scans still raised privacy concerns and Congress ordered that they either produce a more generic image or be removed by June.

On Thursday Rapiscan, the maker of the X-ray, or backscatter, scanner, admitted that it would not be able to meet the June deadline. The TSA said yesterday that it had ended its contract for the software with Rapiscan.

The agency's statement also said the remaining scanners would move travellers through more quickly, meaning faster lanes at the airport. Those scanners, made by L-3 Communications, used millimetre waves to make an image. The company was able to come up with software that no longer produced a naked image of a traveller's body.

The TSA will remove all 174 backscatter scanners from the 30 airports they are used in now. Another 76 are in storage. It has 669 of the millimetre wave machines it is keeping, plus options for 60 more, TSA spokesman David Castelveter said.

Not all of the machines will be replaced. Mr Castelveter said some airports that now have backscatter scanners will go back to having metal detectors - what most airports used before scanners were introduced.

Press Association

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