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Full Body Scanners are Not as Private as We Were Previously Told

When people began expressing their concern about full body scanners in airports showing more of their bodies than they were comfortable with, officials reassured them that these images were just viewed by one member of airport security personnel and then immediately deleted.  That just didn't sound right to me. Why employ these full body scanners if the images could not be accessed at a later date? What if there is something suspicious about a passenger who is trying to board a flight? What if a passenger gets on board and then behaves suspiciously and causes trouble? Wouldn't our counter terrorism officials need a copy of his or her full body scan to reexamine for proof of explosive devices? And how could they get those copies if they were immediately deleted? As far as I was concerned if these scanners really did delete the images, then they weren't as useful as they should be. And if they didn't delete them automatically but saved them, then US officials were not being forthcoming.  Either way, something didn't feel right.

It seems my suspicions were correct. Yesterday we learned that Indian movie star Shahrukh Khan went through a full body scanner in Heathrow and when he came out the other side, he saw several female airport employees passing around a printout of his full body scan. Apparently, Mr. Khan was gifted, if you know what I mean, and it was all there in the image for everyone to see.  When he realized what these girls were looking at, he actually autographed it for the them. He is obviously quite comfortable with both his body and the attention.

Most people are not as uninhibited as Mr. Khan and would be mortified and humiliated if a printout of their naked bodies had been passed out among the security staff and used as a source of amusement. If the security personnel have access to email, passengers's images, particularly those belonging to the famous as well as the infamous, can be sent all over the world.  The abuses and violations of privacy would be unprecedented.  If we hear stories of full body scan images of private citizens being printed off and passed around, it could do great damage to the airline industry as people stop flying and instead drive to where they need to go, if they can.

Update: Reader Jerry emails:

Of course the original scans probably are deleted immediately after inspection, right after being saved elsewhere and printed. If it works like most computers the file really isn't gone, only the file name is deleted and the space marked as free. Any file recovery application can probably get it back As a side note, did you know that these scans can be pasted into MS Paint, color inverted and look almost 'normal'? I was totally surprised at the results when I experimented with this. No wonder the UK is in such a snit over scanning children. These things would make very nice upscale artificial reefs.


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Comments (7)

Most People's scans would n... (Below threshold)

Most People's scans would not be passed around like a piece of red meat either. There's might make it to Mad magazine but that's about it.

My airport body scan could ... (Below threshold)

My airport body scan could be used by lesbians to recruit young girls.

Just make sure to hire only... (Below threshold)

Just make sure to hire only prudes on the scanners, and only idealists for management.

The funniest thing about th... (Below threshold)

The funniest thing about that article is the fact that the UK's Transport Secretary is named Lord Adonis.

Personally, for me the scan... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

Personally, for me the scanners are no big deal? It wasn't too long ago that modesty required a pregnent woman to be covered by a sheet while in delivery. The doctor had to deliver the baby blind.

I've never been more glad t... (Below threshold)
Jason Author Profile Page:

I've never been more glad to be a non-flier.

I've never been more glad t... (Below threshold)
Jason Author Profile Page:

I've never been more glad to be a non-flier. No one needs to be ogling my, my wife's or my kids' bodies like that.






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