Saturday, 22 June 2013

Why The Threat of TSA Scanners Is Still With Us

TSA ProVision Xray machine screening ..Good.
English: TSA ProVision Xray machine screening a person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Discontinued in USA, may be found elsewhere BAD
English: Backscatter Unit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In May 2013 John Pistole the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wrote a letter to the US Congress, confirming that the 1st of June deadline, for all its airport body scanners to be privacy compliant had been met. All airport scanners in the US will now use Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) software which only shows a generic image. While this may be great news to many who hated the pervy naked scanners it is not the end of the story, especially if you travel outside the United States.

Legislation requiring all airport scanners to comply with privacy concerns was passed by the US Congress in January 2013. The TSA through its partnerships with Rapiscan and L3 Communications had till June 1st to make their machines compliant. L3 Communications was the only company able to produce software to satisfy the privacy requirement. As a result the Rapiscan Secure 1000 machines have been removed and the L3 Communications Provision Millimetre wave machines are their replacement.

The first hint of a problem is that the TSA is still adamant that the Rapiscan backscatter scanners are completely safe! The sole reason for withdrawing them they say is because they are not privacy compliant. Some of the reports in the media seem to suggest that if Rapiscan can solve the software issue we could see the return of the backscatter technology. While it is only inferred, it is not hard to see that if you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on machinery and you can recoup your investment by fixing the software glitch you may favour that option. Hence we may nt be out of the woods yet.

The second cause for concern is that these Rapiscan backscatter machines were fitted in other countries around the world who do not have a robust government to implement the changes like the United States has. Frequent fliers are left to fend for themselves in these cases. They have to deal with the breaches of privacy and the ionising radiation they are subject to. Often times the airport workers are not knowledgeable enough to understand the legitimate concerns of the traveller. In these instances the choices are comply and subject yourself to these violations or remain trapped in the country until you do, which is no choice at all. For this reason the dangers of backscatter technology may still be with us for a while longer yet.

Some reports online confuse the issue of scanners more than it needs to be.
Know your scanners and know which ones to avoid.
All scanners are Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners.
Rapiscan Secure 1000 ( 2 Metal Blue Boxes you stand between) BAD.
L3 Communications Provision Millimetre Wave scanner ( Glass tube you stand in) GOOD.

See this helpful diagram if in doubt.

- Christopher Babayode

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