The end of 'naked scanners'?

Thanks to new less intrusive software, TSA security agents will no longer see revealing images of travelers. Will that silence the "invasion of privacy" outcry?

The TSA's controversial airport scanners are getting an upgrade that will render passengers' bodies as cartoon images to better preserve privacy.
(Image credit: MATTHEW CAVANAUGH/epa/Corbis)

The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that airport scanners will no longer show images of travelers' naked bodies to security officers. Instead, thanks to a software upgrade, the scanners will "auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat" and display them on a generic, family-friendly cartoon image that the passenger himself can see. Is the nationwide "naked scanner" privacy scare officially over?

The peep show ends now: All the critics wanted was for the TSA to "find a way to simultaneously protect lives and preserve privacy," says the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. And it looks like the much-maligned agency has done just that. The scanners will still detect anything a suspicious passenger is trying to hide, but without "the peep show element." And now that the TSA agents scrutinizing the images won't be off in some other room, security lines should move faster.

"Airport modesty"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

This is still an invasion of privacy: Travelers must still go through "an electronic strip search" to be allowed on a plane, says The Washington Times in an editorial, and, even if TSA agents will be looking at cartoon images now, "it’s up to the flying public to trust that the devices will not save the underlying pornographic images that will still be taken." The only way to really restore passengers' dignity is for the TSA to forgo "nude photography and intimate groping" altogether, and focus on the real threat — actual Muslim extremists.

"Government pornography ring"

Less intrusive software should end the scare, but it won't: "America, your 'junk' is all yours again," says the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal in an editorial. But don't expect the public to forgive the TSA so easily. The privacy concerns over the so-called naked scanners inspired people to come up with everything from scan-proof underwear to "the now-famous rallying cry of 'don't touch my junk,'" so some determinedly disgruntled people will probably never be happy with what happens in the security lines.

"Generic air travelers"

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.