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Are Full Body Scans an Affront to Modesty?

How much is too much?

BY Danielle Bean

| Posted 2/23/10 at 11:00 AM

 

The last time I flew, I wore a skirt.

That was a bad idea.

Apparently, wearing a skirt increases the number of “hiding places” on your person and as a consequence, I was subjected to increased security checks. I had to wait in a special line and take my turn walking through a special beeping machine.

When I arrived home, I mentioned this to my mother and she replied, “Of course you know that means they scanned you and they saw everything.”

Thanks, Mom. I feel better now.

If you ever fly, you know firsthand the kinds of personal impositions that are demanded of airline passengers in the name of safety. Now, with the advent of new technology, removing your shoes and belt, handing over your mascara, and throwing away your bottled water are just the beginning.

Body scanners produce X-ray like images that can reveal hidden objects under clothing. But this kind of “body search” produces privacy concerns for many.

“The price of liberty is too high,” said Kate Hanni, who as founder of FlyersRights.org, an advocacy organization for air passengers, shuttles regularly between her California home and Washington to lobby Congress. Hanni said many of her group’s 25,000 members are concerned that “the full-body scanners may not catch the criminals and will subject the rest of us to intrusive and virtual strip searches.”

But still others take the privacy issue lightly:

“I don’t think it’s any different than if you go to the beach and put on a bikini,” said Brandon Macsata, who started the Association for Airline Passenger Rights.

Hmmm, but what about those of us who, for reasons of modesty, don’t wear bikinis to the beach?

Critics talk as if the machines produce images that are “Playboy-centerfold quality,” said Jon Adler, head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “I don’t consider the full-body scanners an invasion of privacy,” Adler said. “I think a bomb detonating on a plane is the biggest invasion of privacy a person can experience.”

The images produced might not be comparable to pornographic centerfolds, but they are revealing. So revealing, in fact, that I chose this rainbow body image to accompany this blog post instead of a real scan. The real scans are considerably more true-to-life.

There are measures in place to ensure that when full body scans are used, passengers’ privacy is still respected. The images produced are digital and are not recorded. Passengers’ faces are concealed and the x-ray images are viewed in a separate room.

While I do want the TSA to take every reasonable measure to avert terrorism, I am not sure if full body scanning is a reasonable measure.

What do you think?