Airport "Naked" Body Scanners Get Privacy Upgrade to Anonymize Your Naughty Bits

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Airport security scanners that literally see through your clothes are contentious. Because ... well, think about shadowy TSA guys peeping at your bits. Hence some firms are now tweaking them to anonymize your "x-rays" to protect your decency.

The issues surrounding through-clothes airport security imagers are complex, and the matter has got stickier in the wake of several stories about abuse of the data by the TSA and its operatives. Many people don't like the idea on all sorts of grounds, even while some safeguards have already been implemented (on some systems) to automatically cover intimate regions in the image with a digital "figleaf."

Now L-3 and Rapiscan's machines, often used by the TSA, are implementing a software upgrade that takes the raw data from the scanner and displays it as a generic human-formed figure on the monitor of the TSA agent. As such when you stand in front of the viewing system, your own body parts aren't subject to ogling. The software merely highlights regions of "interest" on the body where its pattern recognition code has calculated you may be hiding something—ready for a more traditional pat-down.


L-3's already tested the system at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, and presented its new software for consideration by the TSA. The agency for its part noted "TSA continues to explore additional privacy protections for imaging technology" via spokesman Greg Soule, and remarked that "testing is currently underway."

It's easy to argue that anything that's a positive score for privacy is a good thing, as long as it meets two important requirements: The protections put in place shouldn't compromise security, and they must actually work to protect individuals' sense of decency. This last piece is all the more tricky when you see optical tricks like this one, worked out by a young Mormon to trick his mind into thinking photos of bikini clad women (morally acceptable to his faith) are actually naked (unacceptable images).


Fast Company empowers innovators to challenge convention and create the future of business.