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Oh, I wish we had the image tag again...
December 3, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Bare naked travel? (Previously on MeFi: here, except now they're actually doing it, and here). The TSA wants to see you naked. Just don't paint "Kip Hawley Is An Idiot" on your torso in Pepto-Bismol before you go to the airport.
posted by bitter-girl.com (51 comments total)

 
I see a great new business opportunity -- anyone have a source for empty felt-tip markers we could fill with Pepto-Bismol for easy-peasy, Kathleen-Hanna-style torso-writing?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2006


Plus, if you want a good laugh, read the response to this (comments thread) on USA Today. Yes, yes... USA Today readers, it's like fish in a barrel, but still...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2006


Am I the only person who thinks this is kind of cool? I just wish they'd have a big screen so I could see what I looked like.
posted by ErWenn at 9:17 AM on December 3, 2006


I think so, ErWenn. And a big screen would make the whole "remote screener for privacy" think pretty pointless...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2006


Interesting, they're keeping things 'private' by having the actual screener be at a different physical location. It removes some of the 'titter' factor, you know the person who sees you 'naked' won't be able to see your face (people's heads look pretty creepy through this machine, not at all like their real face) and you won't be able to see their's.

On the other hand, there's a whole other creep factor involved then, knowing that some faceless, remote entity is viewing you, through your clothes and through your skin.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2006


after the populace figuratively bends over for this, the next, perhaps final necessary humiliation will be bending over for real, unless & until we invent machines that scan the contents of our butts.

OBL must be laughing his turbanned head off right now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


bitter-girl.com : "Plus, if you want a good laugh, read the response to this (comments thread) on USA Today. Yes, yes... USA Today readers, it's like fish in a barrel, but still..."

I only read through about half, but, except for the comment by PDC, it actually sounds pretty much like a MeFi thread...which means either USA Today readers are getting smarter, or MeFi is getting dumber.
posted by Bugbread at 10:07 AM on December 3, 2006


Also, I bet the 'remote screeners' will sneak cameras into their work, and just take pictures of the screens.
posted by delmoi at 10:12 AM on December 3, 2006


And, if you travel a lot, how large a dose of radiation will you accumulate and what will it do to your cancer risk?
posted by tabbycat at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2006


US: "Exclusive Jennfier Anderson Airport Pix!"
posted by bonehead at 10:29 AM on December 3, 2006


Tabbycat, I think this comment might interest you. If a medical imaging tech thinks it's a bad idea, well...

bugbread, keep reading for priceless gems like this:
"It will be very hard to fight the ACLU and the terrorists at the same time, but we must."
or
It seems all the terrorist worship Islam.
Why not expell them. As in the cases of ww11 Japanese or Native Americans in the "Indian Removal Act" of seventeenth century.

Or require emigants to accept the "Declaration of Independence" as well as the "US Constitution". The " ...all men are created equal..." clause would stop
most radical religous worshiper from imigrating to USA.
or
Since screeners do not get paid much I think they deserve the peep show!

Of course, given the average American girth, I would have to put in for a relocation to an oversees post"
Well, ok. You've won me over, USA Today commenter. Screeners don't get paid much, so let's give 'em some glowing blue boobies as compensation... (wtf?)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2006


The Health Physics Society says:

At 0.005 millirem (0.000 05 mSv) per scan, it would require 200 screening scans in one year to reach the NCRP's Negligible Individual Dose....

We must question the potential for adverse health effects when introducing a new technology, especially those involving exposure to ionizing radiation. When placed in the context of the benefit of increased security for all, the comparison of backscatter x-ray screening with alternative technologies that provide the same improvement in security shows that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Furthermore, the risk to any individual from frequent backscatter x-ray scans is truly trivial, so that the notion of collective risk, spread out over a huge population, is not meaningful.


I'm not sure I buy that 100% from the public health standpoint -- isn't that all about collating individual risks and trying to get the best collective benefit from social intervention? The HPS does seem to have connections with the USG radiation lobby, but I'm not sure if that outweighs the influence of health professionals outside that sphere.

Additionally, you get irradiated a little bit on most jet flights anyway.
posted by dhartung at 10:38 AM on December 3, 2006


bitter-girl.com : "bugbread, keep reading for priceless gems like this"

Ah, ok, I didn't get far enough to reach the non-Mefi-like comments. Good thing, I was starting to worry!
posted by Bugbread at 10:42 AM on December 3, 2006


The security agency's Web site indicates that the technology will be used initially as a secondary screening measure, meaning that only those passengers who first fail the standard screening process will be directed to the X-ray area.

Even then, passengers will have the option of choosing the backscatter or a traditional pat-down search.


Sorry for the interruption. Please resume outrage.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2006


Well all I can say is vote with your dollars folks. I know I'm not flying anytime soon.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Pardonyou?, that's for now... given a cost-benefit analysis (how cheap and fast is it to just run everyone through one of these versus the current some-normal-scanning, some-patdown mix), the technology might well win out.

Install a few of these and run everyone through instead of hiring 10x the number of screeners to do stuff like bring the empty bins back to the front of the line all day?

How soon might the tech win out? Oh, about as soon as they detect some Super Dangerous Threat To Society using it and spin the PR accordingly. (See: shoe removal post-"shoe bomber," "liquids? ha, I think not!" etc etc).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2006


Well, there's no law that states "government employees are not allowed to see what you might look like naked". I think this violates cultural taboos and personal scruples more than it violates actual civil liberties. A cavity search, on the other hand....
posted by tehloki at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2006


Pardonyou?, that's for now... the technology might well win out.

Sorry, I thought we were talking about now.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2006


only those passengers who first fail the standard screening process

Oh, that'll help loads, then. After all, the standard screening process works so well. This is just more of that expensive posturing to make it look like they're actually doing something to make us safer.
posted by mediareport at 10:52 AM on December 3, 2006


Oh, that'll help loads, then.

OK, but that's a whole 'nother issue. The issue on the table is the invasiveness of this new technology. I was just pointing out that people will be permitted to not be subject to it, and would therefore be subject to the same screening that existed before the technology.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2006


"initially" means "of, pertaining to, or occurring at the beginning; first: the initial step in a process." I read that as meaning that soon, it will be a primary screening measure, with no other options, especially if they think it streamlines the process. I don't think anyone in this thread is being unduly sky-is-falling.
posted by I Am Not a Lobster at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2006


In the linked-to pages comments, it seems like everyone is afraid the screeners will be jerking off to their pale, hairless 'x-ray' photos. Seems both vainglorious and extremely unlikely.
posted by unmake at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2006


One thing I'm not clear on: does the backscatter device produce a still image, or is it projected in real time? Because if the latter, I don't think I'll be able to resist the urge to make my naked-blue-alien-self do a ridiculous dance.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:48 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Interesting.

They've been trialing these things over here at Heathrow for probably about a year now. There is no remote viewing, so the same security agent gets to see you both through the machine, and in the plain-old visible range. They do ensure that the screening agent is of the same gender as the subject.

The agents are quite friendly, and proud enough of their new tech to allow you have a look at the image displayed on the monitor. Both me and my wife had the opportunity to be selcted for this random testing process on different trips.

When my wife had a look at herself on the screen, she was quite horrified to find some unexpected massive blobular fatlike folds all about her body. The security agent quickly explained to her that the machine uses some kind of randomization algorithm to distort the scanned body shape by adding onto the contours.

In this way they have addressed some of the invasiveness of the scan, and a lot of the issue around agents being able to ogle passengers using the device. However, if they had given my wife a heart attack by making her think she was actually that fat, I definately would have to sue.
posted by yoz420 at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2006


Pointing to the image doesn't work for me, but the caption reads "Susan Hallowell, the director of the Transportation Security Administration’s security laboratory, allows her body to be X-rayed by the ‘backscatter’ machine at the Transportation Security Administration in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Wednesday, June 25, 2003."

My Pepto painting would read "Is Susan Hallowell busy tonight?"
posted by davy at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2006


I found clothed shots of Hallowell via Google; one is here.
posted by davy at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2006


Her face is holding up okay. Though I bet Quonsar's prettier.
posted by davy at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2006


tehloki writes "Well, there's no law that states 'government employees are not allowed to see what you might look like naked'. I think this violates cultural taboos and personal scruples more than it violates actual civil liberties. A cavity search, on the other hand...."

I'd imagine this would certainly violate personal privacy laws.

yoz420 writes "They do ensure that the screening agent is of the same gender as the subject."

Which in itself is pretty damn stupid. The whole idea behind stuff like that is to minimize prurient interest. I have it on anecdotal evidence that lesbians are proportionally over-represented in law enforcment and para-law enforcement positions. Just an example.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2006


I'll walk through there a couple of times, and the TSA employees will probably beg their bosses to not subject them to such visual torture!
posted by clevershark at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2006


Well, there's no law that states

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. . ."
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


Bismuth rocks, dude.
posted by Tube at 1:13 PM on December 3, 2006


A Pepto painting for the male abdomen: Since you're staring at my cock, don't you want to suck it? (That would make a hilarious test case.)
posted by davy at 1:25 PM on December 3, 2006


Why don't I just save them the trouble and walk around naked. What do you mean I'm not allowed to walk around naked?
posted by furtive at 1:48 PM on December 3, 2006


Why don't I just save them the trouble and walk around naked. What do you mean I'm not allowed to walk around naked? - furtive

Exactly! Hmm. Maybe this could actually be a step towards eventually purging some of our American puritanical hangups about the body.

Look, as soon as we started really thinking about travel security, it seemed obvious that the only totally equitable methods to prevent unwanted carryons would be:

a.) a full-body search of every single passenger
b.) everyone travels naked
c.) "Total Recall" style scanning devices

I didn't think we could actually pull off "c" but now that it's here, I have no problem showing 'em my computer-rendered Schmoo body. Especially if it spares me the time and effort of actually stripping in some back room to be physically poked and prodded just because my random number came up.

Plus, it'll only be about 5 years before backscatter imaging technology is standard on every cameraphone. Might as well get used to it.
posted by Tubes at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2006


The capability of printing, storing or transmitting the image is not available to the Transportation Security Officer operating the system.

This very careful language from a TSA site leads me to think they will be storing these images somewhere, and that they will be using the database to attempt to develop an automatic recognition program for bodies the way some people already are or have for faces.
posted by jamjam at 2:40 PM on December 3, 2006


If it was ever true that "they hate us for our freedoms" they must be just about ready to swear eternal friendship with us now.

Mission accomplished.
posted by jamjam at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2006


Someone needs to introduce her to the folks in this NSFW thread at phun.org. Or perhaps they need to introduce the folks in that thread to her.
posted by VulcanMike at 3:12 PM on December 3, 2006


I can see Muslims having a major issue with this - they're not meant to show their body to anyone but their spouse and family, so this would be horrendously invasive.
posted by divabat at 3:20 PM on December 3, 2006


bonehead: US: "Exclusive Jennfier Anderson Airport Pix!"

In other news, Jennifer Anniston and Pamela Anderson announce merger.
posted by dr_dank at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2006


dr_dank writes "In other news, Jennifer Anniston and Pamela Anderson announce merger."

And millions of men worldwide start beating off in a frenzy..
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:14 PM on December 3, 2006


In other news: American Authorities Secretly Give International Travellers Terrorist "Risk" Score
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on December 3, 2006


Not sexy enough.
posted by koeselitz at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2006


Well all I can say is vote with your dollars folks. I know I'm not flying anytime soon.

Well, that's just great. I haven't seen my folks in the States in two years; I guess I'll just have to take a BOAT from Australia, huh?

For some of us, air travel is a necessary evil.
posted by web-goddess at 6:05 PM on December 3, 2006


web-goddess : "I guess I'll just have to take a BOAT from Australia, huh?"

My wife, my 9 month old son, and I are going to be walking back home to Houston this Christmas...from Tokyo.
posted by Bugbread at 6:43 PM on December 3, 2006


First link seems to be broken now.
posted by tiamat at 8:10 PM on December 3, 2006


Seems like they could totally defuse this situation by requiring the TSA remote viewer to also be x-rayed before each shift. Then they could post that image for passengers to ogle while waiting in line. Goose:Gander.
posted by HyperBlue at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2006


The security agent quickly explained to her that the machine uses some kind of randomization algorithm to distort the scanned body shape by adding onto the contours.

In this way they have addressed some of the invasiveness of the scan, and a lot of the issue around agents being able to ogle passengers using the device.


This actually makes me even more freaked out-- "we have this new rather invasive security device but we'll distort its data to appeal to travelers' vanity?" (I'm not knocking your wife's reaction, just the idea that this device would be still be useful as a screening tool if altered in this way. Or was the screener having a joke?)
posted by holyrood at 12:02 AM on December 4, 2006


The time has come to really travel naked. Its the only way to be sure.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:41 AM on December 4, 2006


This very careful language from a TSA site leads me to think they will be storing these images somewhere, and that they will be using the database to attempt to develop an automatic recognition program for bodies the way some people already are or have for faces.

See, there's that, and then there's the matter of evidence. Blue-schmoo-person goes through scanner with suspicious dark spot strapped around waist. Doh!

Do they stop the entire scanning line and make a billion people late for their flights while they haul suspicious-schmoo off for full-cavity funtime? Or do they save the shot & haul 'em off and then use it as evidence when the case goes to court? (or as a "But we hadta shoot 'im, Judge! He had a suspicious black spot!" CYA maneuver...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2006


Heywood:once again, this covers unprompted cavity searches and such, but not non-invasive scanning. The amendment doesn't protect you against reasonable searches, like when boarding an aircraft, and certainly not against non-invasive scans like this one.
posted by tehloki at 2:27 PM on December 4, 2006


I have a counter-question, as well: What is your threshhold for "unreasonable" search? Do you believe that nobody should ever be searched in any circumstances? Boarding a passenger airline with dozens of people onboard seems like an appropriate time to be searched, but maybe that's just me.
posted by tehloki at 2:29 PM on December 4, 2006


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