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How new TSA body scans will work

July 20, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Anyone who passes through a full-body scanner now will see the same body outline that TSA workers see.
Anyone who passes through a full-body scanner now will see the same body… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )

Full-body scanners at airport security checkpoints will no longer display explicit "person-specific images" under new technology being phased in nationwide, according to a statement Wednesday by the Transportation Security Administration. Instead, a software upgrade for the machines will show a generic body outline.

Critics have pointed to explicit scanned images as a virtual "strip search" and a violation of passengers' privacy ever since the full-body scanners were phased in last year. But TSA says that situation will change with this upgrade.

Here's how the new body scan works:

-- Anyone who passes through a full-body scanner will see the same body outline that TSA workers see.

-- If  no explosives, weapons or suspicious items are detected, the machine flashes "OK" and the passenger is cleared.

-- If something suspicious shows up, more screening would be done.

The TSA says the software upgrade might speed up security lines too. Currently a TSA officer views body scans in a room separate from the screening area to protect the privacy of passengers. The TSA says the new software eliminates the need for off-site viewing, which means passengers can be processed more quickly.

The TSA tested the new software in February at airports in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. The agency operates about 500 scanning machines -- using two different types of technology -- at airports nationwide. Click here to read about current TSA body scanners and the images they produce.

The TSA this month also announced plans to launch a pilot program to pre-screen frequent fliers who pose little security risk to speed up the checkpoint process. Here are more details on the program from the TSA's blog.

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