Sunday, July 11, 2010

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Senate bill would make airport body scanners mandatory

The bill (PDF), known as the Securing Aircraft From Explosives Responsibly: Advanced Imaging Recognition ("SAFER AIR") Act, would require all commercial airports in the US to use full-body scanners as their primary screening method by no later than 2013. The bill is a response to criticism among some lawmakers that the DHS has been dragging its feet on implementing the technology.

Full-body scanners have been in testing at some airports in the US for several years, and the Department of Homeland Security ramped up expansion of the screening program after the Christmas Day bombing attempt. Some 48 airports have installed the machines so far, and the DHS has purchased 450 of them.

The bill includes clauses designed to protect passengers' privacy, such as a requirement that the images the scanners create "cannot be stored, transferred, copied or printed." It also forbids security personnel from having cameras near the machinery.Those clauses are designed to allay the fears of privacy advocates, who worry that images taken by the machines could be used to humiliate travelers or even create child pornography.

However, the bill's privacy measures appear to be little different from the policy already set out by the Department of Homeland Security, which states that body-scanner technology is used in such a way that it "cannot store, print, transmit or save the image."


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