Recently there has been a great deal of controversy over the new Transportation Security Administration full-body digital x-ray machines and their alternative, the "enhanced pat down." When the body scanners first arrived, many wondered whether the images could be saved or recorded for nefarious purposes. In order to calm the fears of many privacy advocates, federal agencies have promised that body scans cannot be stored and recorded.
However, this week, the U.S. Marshall Service admitted that some police agencies have been recording body scans and transmitting them. In fact, the images amounted to 35,000 images saved by body scanners, at a single courthouse in Florida. The images in question did have identifying features already removed.
The controversy may be a bit misleading, because the scanners being reported upon were not actually used at airports, so it is a separate issue. However, Gizmodo notes that the higher-fidelity TSA x-ray backscatter systems, may have the same image retention capabilities:
"That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future ... If you're lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family," writes Joel Johnson.
The TSA states that images are "automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer." But can travelers take that seriously in light of these recent revelations?
Despite the media attention to the matter, Americans overwhelmingly approve the use of the new full-body digital x-ray machines. According to a CBS news poll, 4 out of 5 Americans support the new machines.