Controversial Airport Full-Body Scanners to Disappear?

The full-body scanners which use X-ray backscatter technology to screen passengers are expected to disappear from airport security checkpoints in the United States as soon as June of this year, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Rapiscan — the manufacturer of the controversial full-body scanners which gained notoriety for producing images of passengers considered by many to be too revealing — reportedly will fail to produce a software upgrade by the deadline of June 2013 to prevent the scanner from projecting naked images of passengers similar to the ones shown below.

This is an example of an image projected by a full-body scanner equipped with X-ray backscatter technology. Portions of the image which may be deemed offensive by some readers have been blurred out. Image courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

The failure of the completion of a software upgrade by the deadline has led to the contract of Rapiscan — a division of OSI Systems, Incorporated based in Hawthorne, California — to be canceled by the Transportation Security Administration.

Although they may be initially pleased about the removal of the controversial full-body scanners, FlyerTalk members are not happy that many of the 174 Rapiscan machines currently in use at screening checkpoints at 30 airports across the United States — with the company absorbing the cost, according to officials of the Transportation Security Administration — will be replaced by another type of scanner currently being used by the Transportation Security Administration manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings, which uses radio waves and shows hidden objects on an avatar image on a screen and not on an image of a passenger…

…and because the avatar outline image is right there at the screening area where the passenger exits, a determination can be reached almost immediately by the Transportation Security Administration agent — rather than have to view the naked image projected by the Rapiscan machine in a separate room away from the airport security checkpoint — helping to speed up the screening process overall.

In my opinion, it is welcome news that Rapiscan will absorb the cost of the removing their machines from airport security checkpoints — but I cannot help but lament the exorbitant cost already absorbed by taxpayers of the United States with regard to purchasing and installing these machines in the first place. Regardless, good riddance to the Rapiscan machines, I say.

Interestingly enough, at some airports, the Rapiscan machines will reportedly be replaced with metal detectors — the technology used before the full-body scanners were introduced in the first place. Screen me with a metal detector any day over the full-body scanners.

What about the fate of the removed Rapiscan machines? They will supposedly be used at other government locations — but specifically where is yet to be determined at this time.

Some frequent fliers were concerned about the amount of radiation they were possibly accumulating by passing through these scanners often at airport security checkpoints, wondering if their health was at risk in any way — but is the millimeter wave technology manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings any safer?

I have personally been against the Rapiscan machines ever since there was talk of introducing them at airport security checkpoints. I never liked the idea of having an image of my naked body displayed to some stranger at an airport, as I have always felt that it was an invasion of my privacy. Assuming that no naked image is taken of me and that I am not enduring any significant risk to my health, I do not mind the avatar on the body scanners which produce a generic outline of my body, pointing out to the Transportation Security Administration agent any anomalies which may be suspected upon my person, if any.

I do realize that the full-body scanners manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings at one time also displayed a naked image of the full body of each passenger who is screened — but as much as I do not like for my privacy to be invaded, I also cannot think of a cogent and plausible reason as to why anyone would want to see my naked body in the first place…

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