Home Travel What TSA Workers See On Airport Body Scanners Nowadays

What TSA Workers See On Airport Body Scanners Nowadays

by SharonKurheg

In the years after 9/11, and especially after an incident on Northwest Airlines flight 253 in 2009, the TSA began introducing “backscatter” screening machines made by Rapiscan. They were the first scanners in which you emptied your pockets, stood between two big boxes, raised your hands over your arms, put your feet on the painted feet on the floor, didn’t move, and had X-rays shot at your body to see what you may have under your clothes. By December 2010, the TSA had about 500 of them in U.S. airports.

Besides the concerns about how much radiation your body was being subjected to (it was said to be much less than a medical X-ray, but still, radiation is radiation, y’know?), there was also the privacy concerns, because of what TSA workers could see. Stuff like this:

Backscatter

PC: Wikipedia

The image above has actually been edited a bit. Based on my research, it appears that TSA officers could actually see hazy but recognizable images of nipples, backsides and male genitalia (Click here for an example – image is mildly NSFW).

In 2012, the TSA announced they would begin removing the Rapiscan “backscatter” scanners, due to privacy concerns and the fact that Rapiscan couldn’t update the software fast enough in order to be able to avoid those intimate details (and hopefully because of the radiation issue, as well).

Since then (well, 2016ish), they’ve begun using AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) scanners. They use electromagnetic waves, which are said to be harmless.

From a privacy point of view though, they’re even better. A monitor shows a generic cookie-cutter-like outline of a person and highlights any potential threats. The image is the same, regardless of gender, height, or body type. The scanner software recognizes metallic and non-metallic items hiding under clothing and then processes an image using yellow boxes to point out any areas that may need additional screening. If there’s nothing to be concerned with, a green “OK” appears on the screen.

TSAxray

PC: TSA

Best of all, concerned travelers can see the above image when they exit the scanner, so they know no one is seeing anything they shouldn’t.

Both machines have you stand in the same position while the image taking moves around you, so if you were an infrequent traveler, you’d never know the difference and might think they’re still looking at the “naked” body scanners.

They’re not. 🙂

Feature image (cropped): “tsa scanner” by Steven Perez is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.
Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

1 comment

Byron York November 9, 2021 - 9:32 pm

I was a twice-weekly flyer for a number of years. As an early-morning traveler from my home airport, I became familiar with many of the TSA staff. One morning, I dutifully stepped into the ‘hold-up’ booth and got my scan. I stepped out to await for the body scan to appear for the TSA person. As I waited in front of her for that few moments, my image appeared on the screen over my left shoulder. As I looked at it, and I could see that a box appeared over my ‘private area’. The TSA lady, who sort of recognized me was looking at me. I smiled and said, “From time to time it’s wood, but it never been metal”. She smiled and waved me through.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: