May 31, 2013 at 4:55 PM ET
Travelers who had held their fists, and cheeks, clenched breathed a sigh of relief after the Transportation Security Administration announced it had removed the controversial screening technology from all its airport security checkpoints that critics charged were "virtual strip searches."
Instead of the revealing images, TSA operators of the full-body millimeter wave scanners will see a generic outline of a human with a colored box indicating the location of a potential weapon. Congress mandated the retrofits in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Fliers surveyed at the Louisville International Airport on Friday said they were happy the TSA changed the machines.
"If a kid goes through it, what's the difference in that and child pornography?" Nathan Gardner, on his way to Chicago, told NBC News.
"I'm glad they're gone. They were a pain in the butt. I travel every week," said Julie DiFrancesco, headed home to Cleveland.
"I never go through them," said a man who declined to give his name. Flying four to five times per week, he always opts out of the full body scans. "I always get the pat down. When I start seeing pilots and flight attendants go through them, then I will," he told NBC News.
In terms of safety, "I don't think it will make a big difference," said Julie Di Francesco, en route to Cleveland. "It was a little overkill and seemed invasive.
Others, elsewhere, had misgivings. Banji Bagzi Eguana, a designer from Uganda who occasionally travels through the United States, said the change made him nervous "until they find a more stringent form of security," he told NBC News. "I'm more for safety than convenience."
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which in 2010 sued the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA's parent agency, over privacy concerns about the then new body scanners, applauded the move.
No longer are "government officials looking at travelers in the buff," EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told NBC News. "It's good news."
Previously, he said, the machines, "allowed for a person to be stripped naked, and for people to be treated like prison inmates at airports."
Some experts concurred. "They're finally got something right. It preserves privacy at no loss of security," security expert Bruce Schneier told NBC News.
Others in the industry disagreed with the TSA move.
"When you go through security checkpoints and put a bag through X-ray, the ability for the screener to find what they're looking for is dependent on the machine to show detail," Douglas Laird, president of the Laird & Associates international aviation security consultancy and former security director for Northwest Airlines told NBC News. "When you try to obscure the body you make it far more difficult for the technology to find what you're looking for.
"It should not be a decision based on politics and public whim, but science," he said. "Do you want to keep items that would sabotage airplanes off the airplane?"
NBC News contributor Dana McMahan contributed to this report.