In a bid to ensure aviation security in the US, full body scanners are being installed at America’s 10 busiest airports, even as the step has sparked a controversy over the issue of privacy.
Full body scanning machines that work similar to X-rays, showing images of people underneath their clothing are being installed at 10 of the nation’s busiest airports, including Houston’s William P Hobby Airport.
However, these screening devices at passenger screening checkpoints have stirred a lot of controversy over privacy.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced yesterday that 20 additional airports will be receiving the advanced imaging technology devices this summer.
A total of 58 of the so-called “Advanced Imaging Technology’ (AIT) units are already deployed at 24 airports nationwide.
“Deploying advanced imaging technology at these airports strengthens our ability to protect the traveling public in the face of evolving threats to aviation security,” Napolitano said.
Federal spending through USD 787 billion, two-year economic stimulus package enacted last year enables the department of homeland security to continue “accelerated deployment of enhanced technology as part of our layered approach to security at airports nationwide,” Napolitano said.
The screening devices are designed to check passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats such as weapons and explosives concealed beneath their clothing.
The devices are being programmed with “the latest security enhancements to detect new and evolving threats” such as liquid explosives, officials said.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, has purchased 450 of such devices.
Authorities said TSA ensures passenger privacy through the anonymity of the images.
A privacy filter is applied to blur the images.
The images are permanently deleted immediately after they are viewed by a TSA screener.
And the officer viewing the images is stationed in a remote location at the airport so that the screener does not to come into personal contact with passengers who are being screened with the equipment.
“Many factors are taken into consideration before AIT units are deployed including airport readiness, checkpoint infrastructure and capacity to ensure privacy protections –including a separate, remotely located room for viewing images,” Napolitano’s office said in a statement.