Full body scanner images expose private individuals on the web

image from z-backscatter scanner

Full body scanner images that were improperly saved showed up online, adding a dimension to the invasion of privacy posed by the machines. Image: CC francoiscuccu/Flickr

Full body scanner images of private individuals made it to the Internet today. The leak of the full body scanner images occurred after a U.S. Marshall in Florida saved and stored more than 35,000 of the images. Throughout the intense debate over full body scanners, the Transportation Security Administration has told air travelers that the images are automatically deleted.

Full body scanner images leaked to the public

The angry uproar over full body scanner images was turned up a notch when Gizmodo posted 100 full body scans on its website. The images were collected from a U.S. Marshall in a Florida federal courthouse through a Freedom of Information Act request. Although the low resolution images, taken by a “millimeter wave scanner” aren’t particularly revealing, Gizmodo said the fact that they were saved underscores the threat to personal privacy posed by TSA body scanner rules.

TSA body scanner rules violated

The full body scanner images taken by the “z-backscatter scanners” at airports more revealing than the low-res images. On its website, the TSA body scanner rules say its imaging technology “cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer.” However, when full body scanner images showed up on Gizmodo, it served to illustrate how easily images taken by the so-called “porno scanners” can circulate if those operating them choose not to abide by TSA guidelines.

Private people, private parts

Full body scanner imaging was initiated by the TSA in 2007. Today it operates scanners at 68 airports in the U.S. Advanced z-backscatter imaging shoots air travelers with an ionizing X-ray beam to create an image of their naked body. In addition to a violation of privacy, people are concerned about the radiation exposure from the machines. So far the TSA has been impervious to those arguments. Gizmodo predicts that it’s only a matter of time before z-backscatter images expose the private parts of private people on the Internet.



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