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More Intrusive Biometric Devices Make Appearance at Airports

More Intrusive Biometric Devices Make Appearance at AirportsWe’ve discussed the new full body scanners that are being installed in various airports throughout the country. The new scanners use x ray technology detailed enough to see under people’s clothing, sparking more than a few complaints from passengers and travelers.

Over the weekend, security officials at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York began working with the machines, called “backscatters”. These scanners scan passengers as they pass through the airport’s security area. Passengers were given the option to bypass the machine but signs were posted that said those refusing the scan would be pat down thoroughly.

The Transportation Security Administration has installed around 300 scanners in 61 airports to date nationwide and has plans to deploy another 150 by year’s end. Their goal is to install 1000 by the end of 2011, but the machines have received some criticism – if not for health concerns regarding radiation, then for budget and financial reasons. Each machine runs about $150,000 to purchase and requires new hires and training.

New York metropolitan area airports such as Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia will be installing the backscatter scanners over the next few weeks. Some will be equipped with radio wave technology rather than X ray. Still, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was on hand at JFK the other day, said travelers need not be worried by the potential radiation the x ray machine transferred, saying the actual amount was very low as were the risks.

Many travelers voiced complaints or concerns to a New York Post reporter but it seemed the majority didn’t mind giving up a little more privacy in the name of safety.

Passengers scanned receive a low dose of radiation that creates a computerized image of their body that’s only visible to a screener who’s seated in a private room near the security area. Images show up for 20 seconds and are then erased and apparently do not show the scanee’s face.

Expect to see a lot more changes in the coming years as far as security scans and biometrics in public places.

Full-body scanners installed at NYC airports