Whole Body Scan vs. Your Privacy: How Far Is Too Far?

By Bradley Blackburn

Dec 29, 2009 4:37pm

ABC's Aaron Katersky Reports:   On June 4, 2009 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 2200, that would limit the use of whole-body imaging (WBI) systems in airports.  The amendment prohibits the use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method.  They can be used as secondary screening and in such a case “would require the TSA to give passengers the option of a pat-down search in lieu of going through a WBI machine.”   The sponsor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said at the time “to suggest that every single American–that my wife, my 8-year-old daughter–needs to be subjected to this, I think, is just absolutely wrong.”   Reached today by phone, Chaffetz told ABC News he still supports only limited use of WBI technology.   “We have to find the right balance between personal privacy and the need to secure an aircraft,” Chaffetz said.  “The technology exists to be more effective and yet less invasive.”   The Senate has not taken up the matter and Chaffetz conceded there’s little chance it would pass now.   The Justice department is currently being sued by the Electronic Privacy Information Center over WBI, but as of October 1, 2009, the TSA ordered an additional 150 WBI machines for use in airports.    Privacy is not the only reason the TSA has not deployed them en masse.  WBI technology costs ten times as much as what’s in place at airports now, and there are questions about whether it’s worth it.   Experts say the technology would almost certainly find a gun or knife but not necessarily something carried the way the Nigerian carried his explosives.    “The full-body scan is not the answer,” said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center in New York.  “Even with a full-body scan if you went through there with nothing on but you had something in the crevices of your body you won’t see it in the full-body scan.”

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