July 20, 2011 at 11:19 AM ET
The Transportation Security Administration announced today that it is going to improve the privacy of full-body scanners by installing software that does not create passenger-specific images.
Instead, screeners will see a generic outline of the body on a monitor attached to the scanner. The software will auto-detect metallic and non-metallic concealed items.
Known as Automated Target Recognition (ATR), the software will be installed in the coming months on millimeter-wave scanners, which use electromagnetic waves to produce an image of the body. Of the 488 full-body scanners in airports nationwide, 241 are millimeter-wave and 247 are backscatter, which use low-level radiation beams to create an image of the body.
“This software upgrade enables us to continue providing a high level of security through advanced imaging technology screening, while improving the passenger experience at checkpoints,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement issued by the agency.
Since the enhanced privacy allows the screener to review the image at the checkpoint instead of in a separate room, as is currently done, the TSA expects the scanning process to be more efficient.
The TSA said that the software was tested in February at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Las Vegas McCarran International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports. The agency plans to test the software on backscatter machines in the fall.
Last week, a U.S. appeals court Friday upheld the use of the controversial machines, but said the TSA should have sought public comment before installing them at airports.
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