Scan baby, sign here

February 11, 2010 at 4:37 am Leave a comment

Exposed ... Shahrukh Khan says he signed his X-ray scan, just like this image taken from a computer screen at Manchester Airport.Did I not cynically suggest in a recent post that sooner or later scans of the naked bodies of Hollywood stars would miraculously pop out of those full-body scanners that are being foisted on us at international airports? You know, the scanners we’re told cannot possibly store naked images of passengers because they are deleted?

The Transportation Security Administration (TS) has sworn black and blue that the scanners do not have the ability to scan and store images. But the US Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained technical specifications from 2008 that pointed to the TSA wanting scanners that could store and transmit images when in test mode. And there are further suggestions that full-body scanners operating in 19 US airports can store and export captured images. So if they have this capability in test mode is the TSA lying through their chops?

Oh but back to Hollywood. I got that one wrong. It’s naked images of Bollywood stars that are popping out of the scanners. Shah Rukh Khan is apparently a Bollywood heart throb and claims that, following a full-body scan at Heathrow airport, he was asked by two female security officers to plonk his autograph on a printout of his naked image. Airport authorities are busy denying saying noooooo that can’t possibly happen but Khan is sticking to his guns.

Of course, the Australian Government is jumping onto the scanning bandwagon and announced the full-body scanners will be adopted around Australia from 2011 as part of a $200 million airport security boost. And if you are lucky enough to be hauled into the scanning booths but decline, you won’t be allowed to board the plane.

The South Africans appear to be more sensible, with the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) saying that airports will not be fitted out with scanners.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing more reports coming out, like this one, suggesting that terahertz waves (which are used in full-body scanners) can rip into human DNA and raises the question – what level of terahertz exposure is safe for travellers to be exposed to?

Now, there is one hot bed of tension we should examine: Israel. Israel’s national airline has a very safe record and the Israelis don’t waste money on expensive equipment like body scanners. They place more emphasis on passenger profiling and behaviour. Perhaps a lesson or two could be learnt from them.

UPDATE: May 7 2010 – airport security screener suspended after assaulting colleague who joked about him having a small penis after he walked through a scanner.


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