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New Airport Scanner Software Creates Generic Image

The new software will still detect items that could pose a potential threat.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says about half of the full-body scanners at U.S. airports will receive new software that does not show a specific image of the person in a scanner.

TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said the new software will be installed on the millimeter wave “advanced imaging technology” (AIT) machines that eliminate passenger-specific images thereby enhancing passenger privacy.

The new software, also referred to as “automated target recognition” (ATR), will still detect items that could pose a potential threat, but it will create a generic outline of a person for all passengers. By eliminating the image of an actual passenger and replacing it with a generic outline of a person, passengers are able to view the same outline that the TSA officer sees. It also eliminates the need for a separate TSA officer to view the image in a remotely located viewing room.

The TSA’s “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,” Pistole said. “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.”

Of the 488 full-body scanners in airports nationwide, 241 are millimeter-wave and 247 are backscatter, which use low-level radiation beams to create an image of the body. The TSA says it plans to test the software on backscatter scanners in the fall.

On July 15, a U.S. appeals court upheld the TSA’s use of the scanners, but added the agency should have sought public comment before installing them at airports.