Campaign in U.S against virtual strip search machines – Airport security bares all, or does it?
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Privacy advocates plan to call on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to suspend use of “whole-body imaging,” the airport security technology that critics say performs “a virtual strip search” and produces “naked” pictures of passengers, CNN has learned.
The national campaign, which will gather signatures from organizations and relevant professionals, is set to launch this week with the hope that it will go “viral,” said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which plans to lead the charge.
“People need to know what’s happening, with no sugar-coating and no spinning,” said Coney, who is also coordinator of the Privacy Coalition, a conglomerate of 42 member organizations. She expects other groups to sign on in the push for the technology’s suspension until privacy safeguards are in place.
Right now, without regulations on what the Transportation Security Administration does with this technology, she said, “We don’t have the policy to hold them to what they say. They’re writing their own rule book at this point.”
The machines “detect both metallic and nonmetallic threat items to keep passengers safe,” said Kristin Lee, spokeswoman for TSA, in a written statement. “It is proven technology, and we are highly confident in its detection capability.”
Late last month, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced legislation to ban these machines. Of concern to him, Coney and others is not just what TSA officials say, it’s also what they see.
The sci-fi-looking whole-body imaging machine — think “Beam me up, Scotty” — was first introduced at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2007. There are now 40 machines, which cost $170,000 each, being tested and used in 19 airports, said TSA’s Lee.
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