Turned off – TSA to ditch 'virtual strip search' body scanners at US airports

The US Congress has demanded that nearly 200 controversial full-body scanners be removed from airport security checkpoints across the country in June due to privacy concerns.

The ruling affects Rapsican “backscatter” machines. Since being introduced in the wake of 9/11, the large scanners – comprised of two dark blue and metallic boxes – had caused controversy for their rendering of lifelike naked images of passengers.

Changes to the rules in 2004 and 2005 saw Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers who view the revealing images repositioned to a remote location away from passengers.

The move did little to appease privacy campaigners. Critics of the machine had gone as far as describing its scans as “virtual strip searches”.

Manufacturer Rapsican had been given a deadline of June 1 2013 to develop software that would ensure the privacy of scanned passengers. The company has now admitted it cannot meet the deadline.

Though scanners will be removed in June, they may well return should Rapsican develop Congress-approved alterations to its system.

Most of the backscatter machines will be replaced with newer “milimeter wave” machines. The new technology features “Automated Target Recognition”, which, according to the TSA, “eliminates passenger-specific images and replaces them with the generic outline of a person”.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to New York

(Featured image by Rapsican Systems)