Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TSA to Heed Formal Gripes Over Body Scans

TSA to Heed Formal Gripes Over Body Scans - Nextgov.com:
"The Transportation Security Administration is letting airplane passengers formally critique its $2 billion body scanning program -- a requirement for substantial federal programs that TSA had skirted for about four years." (via nextgov.com)
The effectiveness of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), also known as full-body scanners, is just one piece of the puzzle (one which could use improvement). The TSA needs to also balance privacy concerns on the public side, cost and throughput concerns on the airport side, and safety concerns all around. The fact that the TSA is responding to stakeholder concerns is a positive step.

To address privacy issues, by summer 2013 the TSA will moved entirely to scanners using the Automated Target Recognition (ATR). So instead of naked images, screeners will see a cartoon image which highlights areas where objects are detected, the limitation being that there is no indication of what that object is.

On the safety side, these scanners use millimeter-wave technology (essentially radio waves), unlike the abandoned backscatter x-ray method which uses small doses of x-ray radiation. Both have their problems detecting certain objects in certain areas, however.

While the purpose of integrating technology into the screening checkpoint is to make things easier, not harder, the best technology in the world is worthless if it is not used properly, or if your entire screening process hinges on it. The most effective screening methods use multiple layers of security, including intelligence-gathering.
Agency officials acknowledge in the public notice to be released on Tuesday that "the U.S. Court of Appeals directed TSA to conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking on the use of AIT as a screening method for passengers." Passengers will have three months to file opinions.  

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