Backscatter Technology Reveals More Than Just Weapons

Posted on May 24, 2005

Backscatter technology could pose major privacy problems. The New York Times reports that Homeland Security has plans to test backscatter technology at dozens of airports nationwide. Homeland Security won't say which airports will do the testing. The new technology has a major side effect -- it reveals much more than just the weapons a terrorist might be carrying:

Bill Scannell, a privacy advocate and technology consultant, tells the New York Times, "Well, you'll see basically everything. It shows nipples. It shows the clear outline of genitals."

That's certainly not going to fly at airports with the public. Steve Elson, a former former Federal Aviation Administration investigator, told the Times that the new technology has significant privacy costs. He says, "Backscatting has been around for years. They started talking about this stuff back during the protests when they were grabbing women. Under the right circumstances, the technology has some efficacy and can work. That is, provided we're willing to pay the price in a further loss of personal privacy."

Elson also says it will not be very difficult for terrorists to thwart the new technology. He says, "All that's needed is someone heavily overweight to go through the system, he said. I won't quote him directly on the details; suffice it to say he posits that a weapon or explosives pack could be tucked into flabby body folds that won't be penetrated by the scanner."

It violates privacy and it is easily thwarted. It also uses X-rays, which means radiation. This technology does not sound like the right move.

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