The Transportation Security Administration has instituted a new change in its full-body scanners at airport security checkpoints after fierce criticism this year that the old technology amounted to virtual strip-searching. The new technology, reports The LA Times, will show a "generic body outline," and passengers will be additionally searched for anything "suspicious." Passengers will be able to see the same outline that TSA workers see.
The newspaper reports:
-- Anyone who passes through a full-body scanner will see the same body outline that TSA workers see.
-- If no explosives, weapons or suspicious items are detected, the machine flashes "OK" and the passenger is cleared.
-- If something suspicious shows up, more screening would be done.
The National Center for Transgender Equality, however, is concerned.
A photo that appeared alongside the LA Times article displayed the new software screen with a pink or blue button to begin the scanning process. The NCTE says that this could negatively impact trans people. In a press release, the NCTE explains:
Full-body scanners have provoked outcry from the transgender people because of how they "out" transgender people going through airport security, making travel dangerous. These software changes appear likely to reduce the risk of unwanted invasion of privacy; however, aspects of the new software are troubling. In particular, it's not clear that the software updates will change the fact that transgender people are disproportionately selected for invasive pat-downs.
It appears that TSA officers need to select a pink or blue "scan" button based on their perception of a traveler's gender. The new software may identify "anomalies" based on gender-atypical anatomy, rather than only targeting foreign objects. This may be a security trigger which would lead to an invasive pat-down, potentially embarrassing questions and in some cases, biased harassment. NCTE urges the TSA to provide greater clarity for the public on how the new scans work.
By the end of 2010, the TSA was operating 486 scanners in 78 airports. Plans were in the works to add almost 500 more scanners this year.