Your Body Scan is on File

Remember when officials from the Transportation Security Administration said they wouldn’t be keeping body scan images on file. They lied.

According to a CNET News report, tens of thousands of images are being stored, for whatever reason.

These are the scanners found in airports, courthouses and various other places where security is high. They include millimeter wave scanners in which the subject is pelted with high frequency radio waves that reflect a picture back to the device. Backscatter X-ray also is used, which measures low-powered reflective X-rays. They produce clearer body shots, which reveal alarmingly precise anatomical detail.

Who is saving the images? Again, from CNET News, the U.S. Marshals Service has admitted that it had saved thousands of images. Three weeks ago, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said the scanners would be used in every major airport, and privacy experts responded with a lawsuit trying to stop the rollout.

Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg said that the devices are designed and deployed that allows images to be stored routinely, as well as being recorded, and that “is exactly what the Marshals Service is doing.”

The fact is, the images were not meant to be stored. But the government -- in its finite wisdom -- decided to do it anyway. The potential of these devices is clearly, unnerving, and is alarming to privacy advocates.

TSA assures everyone that body scanning is constitutional. But what bothers me is that the government says it won’t do something and then turns around and does it -- hiding behind the same constitution that it barely abides.

The devices transport image data in real time at high speed. But at the same time, it intrudes on a person’s identity, modesty and the privacy of the passenger. It is one thing to intrude on a person’s privacy, but quite another to store the images. It’s wrong.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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