Full-body scanners raising privacy issues

Jan. 11, 2010 at 4:07 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Machines to screen airline passengers can store and transmit images, making them open to possible abuse, a U.S. group critical of full-body scanning says.

The federal Transportation Security Administration currently has about 40 body-scanning machines in operation at 19 U.S airports and wants to add 150 more this year and 300 in 2011, CNN reports. TSA says the scanners are not networked and that each machine works independently without the ability to store or send graphic images of human anatomy.

However, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington public-interest group, says documents and contractor specifications it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate the scanners can store and send images in "test mode."

"I don't think the TSA has been forthcoming with the American public about the true capability of these devices," Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director, told the U.S. broadcaster. "But if you look at the actual technical specifications and you read the vendor contracts, you come to understand that these machines are capable of doing far more than the TSA has let on."

The TSA Web site says the scanning machines "have zero storage capability" and "the system has no way to save, transmit or print the image."

TSA says regulations banning cameras, cell phones and other recording devices from the room where passenger images are displayed are sufficient to protect privacy, that facial features are blurred, and that the images are deleted from the machines after they are evaluated, CNN said.

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