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New TSA software to end naked scanner images

July 20, 2011 | 11:27 am

TSAavatar Say goodbye to naked scanner images.

The Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday that it will begin installing software to allow  airport scanners to show objects hidden under the clothes of passengers without creating what appears to be a naked digital image of the travelers.

The full-body scanners now operating at 78 airports across the country use low levels of radiation to look through the clothing of screened passengers to create an image that TSA officials can view to find hidden weapons or contraband.

A software upgrade that the TSA has been testing in airports in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Washington since February would instead create a generic human form (as shown above) and indicate if the scanner detects a hidden object under the clothing. The technology would also show the TSA agents on what part of the body the object has been found.

As with the current system, if the scanner detects a hidden object, TSA agents will peform additional screening. If nothing is found, the scanner clears the passenger to move on.

“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,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said.

About half of the nation's airport scanners rely on electromagnetic waves, also known as "millimeter wave" technology, to create the image. The other scanners use X-ray beams, in what is known as "backscatter technology."

The TSA plans to add the software in the comming months to more than 200 millimeter wave scanners, with testing to begin in the fall for the backscatter technology scanners.

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-- Hugo Martin

Photo: Image of a generic body created on full-body-scanner screens by the new software. Credit: L3 Communications

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