Under fire from privacy advocates, the Transportation Security Administration is upgrading its full body scanners to eliminate the use of images that show a passenger’s naked body.
Over the new few months, the agency will install new software known as Automated Target Recognition (ATR) that can auto-detect items that pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person for all passengers.
“Our top priority is the safety of the traveling public, and TSA constantly strives to explore and implement new technologies that enhance security and strengthen privacy protections for the traveling public,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement.
“This software upgrade enables us to continue providing a high level of security through advanced imaging technology screening, while improving the passenger experience at checkpoints,” he said.
Under the current system, TSA screeners who watch travelers as they pass through the machines do not see the naked images. The screeners who see such images work in separate locations and don’t see the passengers. Travelers may choose not to go through the scanner, but they then receive an invasive pat-down, which many feel also violates privacy.
The new software on the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines won’t require the separate TSA officer to view the images of actual passengers.
In an interview with Fox News, Pistole wouldn’t say how much the upgrade is costing. He said the agency is using the upgraded software at three airports now with plans to extend that to 41 by the end of the year covering 200 machines.
The announcement came the same month a federal appeals court ruled that TSA has to start soliciting comments about the machines but doesn’t have to stop using them. A civil liberties group attempted to force the agency to stop using the machines, arguing that they violated privacy and religious freedom laws as well as the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches.