Monday, February 21, 2011 08:39
As recently as Thanksgiving 2010 the biggest controversy in travel was over the perceived invasion of privacy created by the backspatter X-ray machines. The machines allow TSA airport security agents searching for concealed weapons to study revealing full-body images of travelers. There was an unsuccessful attempt at organizing a passenger protest of the TSA scanning system over Thanksgiving weekend by opting for manual pat downs. Many travelers, however, also consider pat downs a personally invasive search.
TSA quietly developed a potential solution to the privacy problem in the form of new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) software that began testing at three U.S. airports on Feb. 1, 2011. The new system uses a stick figure, instead of a body image of the passenger. Any suspicious object detected on the person is identified with a red mark indicating its exact location, such as a back pocket. The TSA agent can then conduct a search of the indicated area of the person. When the passenger is cleared to proceed after being scanned, the AIT screen flashes green with a sign reading "Go."
Travelers can look for the new software testing at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport where the new scanning machines will compete for attention with airport slot machines not far away. The controversial body scanning machines are already reportedly in operation at 88 airports. But the newAIT software only works on older millimeter wave scanners used before the body imaging controversy started. TSA executives, however, said that the new AIT software and its stick figures, if proven successful, will be adapted to replace images on the offending body scan machines.