The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has began testing privacy-enhancing software that eliminates passenger-specific images and replaces them with the generic image of a person.
The TSA tested the new advanced imaging technology software on its advanced imaging technology (AIT) machines at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
The new software auto-detects potential threat items and indicates their location on a generic outline of a person that will appear on a monitor attached to the AIT unit.
We believe it addresses the privacy issues that have been raised, says TSA Administrator John Pistole at a news conference at Reagan National Airport, one of the airports testing the new software.
TSA’s recent security measures, which include full-body scans producing a virtually naked image of passengers, have been annoying travelers. Many passengers are being forced to undergo an extremely intrusive and humiliating pat down search that is unlike anything most Americans have experienced before. Security experts have described whole body scanners as the equivalent of a physically invasive strip-search.
The software would allow the security checkpoints to scan for prohibited items in a less intrusive manner, a report on FOX5Vegas.com said, quoting TSA spokesman Dennis Baird. The upgrade would cost $2.7 million and take up to two months, he said.
TSA explains how the new software works: You step into the AIT machine and the new software will automatically detect potential threats and show their location on a generic image of a person. The image is on a monitor that is attached to the AIT unit in public view. Because this eliminates privacy concerns, a separate officer will no longer be required to view the image in a remotely-located viewing room.
If there are areas that need to be searched, TSA says the monitor will display this image.
If there are no potential threats, there will be no image and the monitor will look like this.
Testing this new software will help us confirm test results that indicate it can provide the same high level of security as current advanced imaging technology units while further enhancing the privacy protections already in place, says Pistole.
At present, there are nearly 500 imaging technology units at 78 airports nationwide, with more units planned for deployment this year. The new software is being tested on millimeter wave AIT units currently in airports, with plans to test similar software on backscatter units in the future.
TSA plans to test the new software at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the coming days.