The Transportation Security Administration stated that the “virtual strip” scanners that used a low-dose X-ray will be removed by June 2013 due to the fact that the company that builds the devices cannot fix the privacy problems. All the other airport body scanners, which generate just an outline instead of a nude body. These scanners will allow quicker scans than those using X-rays.
“This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security,” the agency said.
The TSA move came after Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the so-called “backscatter” machines, admitted it could not meet a congressional-ordered deadline to install privacy software on the devices. “It is big news,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It removes the concern that people are being viewed naked by the TSA screener.”
Currently, the TSA uses the 174 backscatter machines in 30 airports, and has another 76 units in storage. Also TSA uses millimeter wave devices in 170 airports.
First tested in 2007, the advanced X-ray technology scanners got media and public attention in 2010. The U.S. government has spent $90 million replacing traditional magnetometers with these controversial body-scanning devices.
Advocates say the body scanners devices are faster than strip searches and very efficient at finding security threats. But they have also generated complaints saying that the X-ray exposure could be a health risk. The European Union banned the use of backscatter scanners at European airports over health concerns, last year.
“While TSA has told the public that the amount of radiation emitted from these machines is small, passengers and some scientific experts have raised questions about the impact of repeated exposure to this radiation,” said Sen. Susan Collins (r-Maine).
The TSA’s announcement comes after its December decision to commission the National Academy of Sciences ”to estimate radiation exposure resulting from backscatter X-ray advanced imaging technology.”
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