X-ray scan of a man wearing Privates

Underwear Conceals Private Areas on TSA's Advanced Imaging Scans

First there was “Opt Out Day.” Now there’s opt-out…underwear.

Right. Several vendors are now offering undergarments designed to conceal private areas when going through TSA's advanced imaging scanners. They range from health-conscious briefs designed to protect your, erm, delicate parts from radiation, to those with rather impertinent messages directed at the TSA screeners.

The latest of these is sold under the fitting name of “Privates,” and it’s the result of a collaboration between 3VR Chairman Stephen Russell and the quirky e-tailer Betabrand (most commonly known for its horizontally oriented ”cordarounds”). The undergarments are printed with “a specialized mix of metallic inks and other materials” and an “interference pattern” that, the company claims, will both blur sensitive areas and get you through the scanner without a TSA pat-down, the idea being that the metals in the ink are not dense enough to trigger any sort of alert.

“Rather than putting down a lot of material that simply blocks the scanning rays,” Russell said, “our product distorts and conceals the image through a mesh that fits on top of the fabric. The effect on the body scanner is more like that of wearing sheer clothing; it’s enough to protect your modesty without such an intense effect – not so strong that it’s going to look like you have a gun or a weapon.”

But would TSA really let you go through the scanner with a blurry groin? Humorist Dave Barry was pulled aside for exactly that reason in November, and I don’t think TSA has gotten any more lenient in the past month.

Russell and Betabrand aren’t sure yet, either. “At this point we have a pretty good understanding of the technology and are pretty sure that [Privates] will work,” Russell said. “Right now we’re trying to get some final test data on the best patterns to use and the proper mixes of ink to use.”

That final test data will come from 50 test pilots who will be trying out Privates at airport scanners around the country. Russell said they’ll use that data to settle on the right patterns and mix of metallic inks.

TSA, unfortunately, didn’t return inquiries for comment. So to judge their effectiveness, we’ll just have to wait until Privates comes to market, which Russell said would be sometime in early 2011.

Do you think Privates will work? Or will they just make wearers the next target for TSA pat-downs?

Posted on Dec 17, 2010


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