TSA Testing More Modest Scanner Software

There is good news for people who lose their shirts at the gaming tables in Las Vegas -- the Transportation Security Administration may see less of you on the way out of town.

The agency announced yesterday that the Las Vegas airport, along with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and Regan National in Washington, D.C., are testing Advanced Target Recognition (ATR) software on millimeter wave machines that shows more modest views of travelers.

As shown in the video, instead of the rather revealing contours of travelers’ bodies that caused such an uproar late last year, the new software shows what is more like a chalk outline of the person.

If a passenger is clear, the screen next to the machine will flash green and the person will be passed through. But when a suspicious item appears in the scan, it only shows a red outline on the passenger’s body, which will trigger a patdown.

"We believe it addresses the privacy issues that have been raised," said TSA Administrator John Pistole yesterday during a news conference. "It's basically a software modification to existing equipment, so there's very little cost."

The three airports will be using the software on a trial basis for two months. If the pilot program is successful, the software will be rolled out to 239 millimeter wave machines in use at 40 airports across the country.

TSA officials said similar software is also being developed for the backscatter machines operational at other airports.

And if the pilot goes well and the software is rolled out nationwide, the TSA indicated those much-maligned private rooms where screeners examine the leave-nothing-to-the-imagination scans will be thankfully de-commissioned.

After announcing Friday the end of the private security screening program for airports, it’s good to see the agency introducing real, concrete solutions to keep the traveling public safe while at the simulataneously addressing privacy concerns.

Is this new software enough to quell the tide of complaints about personal privacy? Would you feel better going through scanner machines with this new software?

Posted by Brent Dirks on Feb 02, 2011

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