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The government's 'naked scanners' scandal
A government agency has been secretly collecting naked images from "X-ray" airport scanners. Big Brother, or a big blunder?
 
A Transportation Security Administration employee looks at an image from a full-body scanner.
A Transportation Security Administration employee looks at an image from a full-body scanner.
Corbis

A government agency has collected thousands of "naked" images from advanced body-scanners, despite assurances from the Transportation Security Administration that the machines can't store or record the scans. The U.S. Marshals Service admits it secretly collected up to 35,000 images of people from a single Florida courthouse. The "X-ray" scanning machines are able to produce images that "see through" clothing, and the TSA is rolling them out at major airports around the U.S. The TSA now acknowledges the scanners can record, but says the feature is only for training purposes, and will be turned off at airports. Should travelers believe it?

No, the feds have no respect for our privacy: We are always told the government has "strong policies in place to prevent abuse" of this kind of technology, says Dan Gillmor at Salon, and we are always lied to. Far from being unable to store images, these machines are "specifically designed" to collect them. "The only surprise in this case is that anyone would be surprised."
"Body scan images being banked"

The potential for abuse is there, but the fears are overblown: There's no evidence of a "nefarious conspiracy" here, says Chris Walters at The Consumerist. "Like it or not," this advanced imaging technology is coming to an airport near you to make flying safer. Now we know the system is open to "errors, oversights, [and] misbehavior," but that doesn't mean we're all going to end up on a government "'Travelers Gone Wild' DVD."
"Courthouse in Florida has 35,000 body scans of citizens."

The complaints would fade if the TSA would level with us: The TSA said it wouldn't be able to record images from the scanners, says Declan McCullagh at CNet, but a look at the small print shows it actually asked manufacturers for the capability to "export image data" from the machines and transfer it to its networks. This "trickle of disclosures" is alarming. The TSA ought to come out and tell us exactly how the machines will be used.
"Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images"

 

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