Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Full body scan images leak online, but why are we surprised?

One hundred full body scans have been exposed on the web, and the fact that they have is going to heat up the debate over full body scanners still further. The images were obtained via a Gizmodo investigation.

Reportedly, the scans were made by U.S. Marshals in an Orlando, FL courthouse and were apparently improperly stored. Once it was known that they had been improperly stored, the images were obtained via a FOIA request.

The scanner used was a Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems. That scanner, as evidenced by the images, does not have the resolution of backscatter scanners that produce images, as shown above, that verge on being completely naked. The larger point, however, is that the fact that these images could be obtained exposes (no pun intended) the vulnerability of people's privacy with regards to these sorts of images.

The problem is that none of these images should have been saved. According to the TSA's website,
Advanced 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.
It appears that the TSA's information about how automatic these deletions are is not correct. Some groups have planned a "National Opt Out of the Airport Scanners Day" for Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving. Many do not know they can opt out of the scanners, but only by submitted to a pat-down so extreme some feel it's the same as being groped.

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