[Photo “evidence” retracted; see below.]
Congratulations to the press unit of the Transportation Services Administration for getting the Boston Herald to pretty much print a PR handout in place of a news story about the introduction of full body scanning at Logan Airport.
Privacy issues? What privacy issues?
The staffer viewing the image is at another location, the images cannot be stored, the security officer at the checkpoint never sees the image, and the image is deleted immediately. The picture itself, shown to reporters on a computer monitor, is chalky and does not reveal â€œprivate parts.â€
And of course the one passenger quoted says that he’s “willing to give up a little of my liberties to fly safely.â€ Ben Franklin would, no doubt, be pleased.
My sister Kelly, in the Huffington Post article that brought the Herald story to my attention, argues that, for women in particular, routine body-scanning is an intolerable invasion of privacy:
Being looked at naked by guards is bad enough when it’s done to prisoners of war. I’m not an enemy combatant – not a combatant of any kind, not an enemy of any kind – and I won’t allow myself to be treated like a prisoner in my own country.
As to the “chalky” images that do not “reveal private parts,” someone at News Cast Daily took the color negative a body-scanner produces and inverted it (which he claims to be a one-click process) to produce this:
[Hoax. See below.]
The News Cast Daily poster adds, “Airport screeners will have access to larger high definition images that, once inverted, will allow them to see every minute detail of your body.” Of course, if the images aren’t stored, they can’t be PhotoShopped, and policy is not to store them. But how hard is that policy to evade?
Houston, we [may] have a problem.
I’m not as certain as Kelly is that the scanners have no security value; a system doesn’t have be perfect to be useful. It’s worth something to impose some additional risk of getting caught and some additional burden of concealment on a would-be plane-bomber. But how much?
Update Two commenters point out that the supposed inversion of a body-scan image was a hoax. My bad.
The original source of the hoax seems to have been Drudge, which apparently has never retracted; the link, with a photo, is still up on the original date but the link goes nowhere. (Or maybe Drudge stole it, unsourced, from News Cast Daily; NCD claims originality, and has never retracted. It was then reposted on Gizmodo; one of the commenters there caught it, but the item itself is still up, unchanged. Of course I already knew never to believe Drudge; too bad to have to add Gizmodo to the same list.
That leaves the question whether the actual, lower-res images are still a problem. I think Kelly has that one right; for most men, they aren’t, but for some (many? most?) women they are.