Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Body Scanner Resolution Rooms Conduct & Privacy


Happy new year! Over the holidays, I read an article titled “The TSA Is Laughing at You” talking about what happens in the resolution rooms where body scanner images are viewed. We’ve talked about this many times in the past, but information is often spread through uninformed sketchy third-hand sources. So, I just wanted to post on privacy issues again.

First off, I want to make it clear that since the implementation of new software on our body scanners, many of the rooms are no longer in use. Instead, a generic image is used for millimeter wave scanners. You can read more about the software here. This is what the image looks like: 

Millimeter Wave Image
Millimeter Wave Image
These resolution rooms are still used in locations where backscatter machines are in place. For units that do not yet have the new software, TSA has taken all efforts to ensure passenger privacy. The officer who assists the passenger never sees the image the technology produces and the officer who views the image is remotely located in a secure resolution room and never sees the passenger. The two officers communicate via wireless headset. The resolution room is used only for the viewing of the images and is not a gathering place or break room for other officers as the officer viewing the images has to be focused in order to prevent any dangerous items from entering the airport.

Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer. Officers evaluating images are not permitted to take cameras, cell phones or photo-enabled devices into the resolution room. Initially, it was feared by the traveling public that these images would be leaked and posted online. This has not happened. To further protect passenger privacy, backscatter technology has a privacy filters that blur images.

This is the image our officers see from the viewing room. 

Backscatter Image
Backscatter Image

















You can read even more about the body scanners here: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/advanced-imaging-technology-ait



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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you confirmed all of the positive things in the article, without managing to refute any of the negative things. How about it? Are the TSA's so-called "officers" laughing at images? Are they engaging in "light sexual play"? Are they using e-cigarettes while they do their job? Your refusal to address any of these accusations leads me to believe that they are valid.

Also, your contention that AIT "cannot store, print, transmit or save the image" is patently false, since you POST AN IMAGE FROM AN AIT SCANNER IN THE SAME BLOG ENTRY. Your assertion is idiotic, in light of this.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, have you ever snickered at anybody without them knowing? If they were puffing on e-cigs what harm would that be to you? Why would you care? What is light sexual play? I'm 50 years old and have no idea.

Insulin Pump User said...

I thought the machines could store images in test mode. A bunch of them got released from a courthouse a couple of years ago.

Here's a scary thought about the scanners. They can damage insulin pumps. I have one and it is a very robust piece of equipment that has to operate 24/7 for a few years. If the scanner can damage the pump, it's scary to think of what it can be doing to the human body.

Since I can't use the scanner and have to involuntarily opt-out, I've accepted the fact that the federal government has to touch my penis and scrotum to get on a plane. I've started telling the screeners that before the patdown. It makes them uncomfortable and about 3/4 of the time, they never come close to that area during the patdown. They used to almost always touch that area.

Anonymous said...

"Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer."

Then how did you obtain the sample image you displayed? Did you get some chalk and paper and draw it yourself?

Anonymous said...

> have you ever snickered at anybody without them knowing?

As a teenage boy, yes. But at the time, it wasn't my responsibility to behave in a professional manner as part of my job duties to ensure the security of travelers. Do not conflate these two very different scenarios.

> If they were puffing on e-cigs what harm would that be to you?

I expect the same professionalism from "officers" that I can't see as I do from the ones that I can. If it's not okay in public, it's not okay behind closed doors.

> What is light sexual play? I'm 50 years old and have no idea.

I'm not sure how your age enters into this, but I'm not okay with *any* kind of "sexual play" by goverment employees looking at images of me, my wife, or my children. I don't care if they're as little as a lewd comment. IT IS NOT OKAY. Are you saying that there's a level of sexual play that YOU are comfortable with?

If the TSA wants its employees to be treated and respected as professionals, then they must act in a professional and respectful manner. I expect and demand this.

Anonymous said...

Why aren´t we allowed to see the officers (but not screens) while they are looking at the scans? Would be simple enough to implement and would end the laughing in the room I am pretty sure happens (humans being human).

But that is only a small point of the article, isn´t it? The main point, the one you won´t address, is that the scanners are useless. They can´t see anything that isn´t on the surface of the skin in the front or back of the person. That leaves plenty of hiding places. They are actually making us less safe by creating a way people can bring guns into airports.

Shamino said...

Insulin Pump User: the machines most certainly can store images.

The TSA says that the machines that they deploy in airports have this feature disabled as a part of system configuration. You can choose to believe that or not. I don't have enough information to argue either way.

Scanners deployed at courthouses are not supervised by the TSA. They are run by different organizations with different sets of rules. (The incident I think you're referring to was with machines run by the US Marshal Service.) These machines may very well be storing images, and the guards you speak to may well be looking at the raw image data. It will depend on the agency involved and what their specific set of rules are.

Anonymous said...

Once again, the TSA is a national disgrace! The fact that you have to constantly defend your sordid behaviors should tell the American people all they need to know. Like Congress, your a joke.

Anonymous said...

What screening do the viewers of these nude images undergo to ensure they have no cameras or other devices to record nude images of passengers?

Anonymous said...

Please stop referring to TSA employees as "officers." They're not law enforcement officers. TSA employees cannot enforce the law; they can only execute TSA policy.

Anonymous said...

These images would certainly never make Playboy or Playgirl. In fact, they look like aliens, and are not at all sexually inspiring.

Adrian said...

The screeners viewing the images from the x-ray backscatter devices should be doing so in public. If they have nothing to hide, they shouldn't need to be in a private room with no supervision.

RB said...

Bob, why are you trying to pass out this old pack of lies once again.

First off you post that old image of a scanner that is apparently doctored.

Why did the TSA Denver Area, Director Pat Ahlstrom, say that WBI images are "graphic, no doubt about it."

The most recent discussion is what TSA employees are doing when hidden away in a room unseen by the public and looking at graphic naked images of the public.

The claims made are not very nice. TSA employees making comments about peoples bodies and such.

You state that TSA Strip Search Machines can't store, print, transmit or save images but that just is not true.

TSA Whole Body Imagers require by contact specifications written by TSA require the ability to store images. They are required to have conventional networking capabilities. There is a reason to have these capabilities.

Seeing as how TSA has been trying to pass out this pack of lies for several years now without success I would suggest trying the truth for once, something that TSA seems to be in short supply of.

Anonymous said...

a generic image is used for millimeter wave scanners
...
resolution rooms are still used in locations where backscatter machines are in place

What, exactly is the percentage of each of these?

Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image

As has been pointed out repeatedly, THIS IS A LIE. As pointed out already- you have a sample image that was indeed saved. In fact, the TSA specifically requested that the machines could do so, according to the Procurement Specifications document. (http://epic.org/open_gov/foia/TSA_Procurement_Specs.pdf) Yes, supposedly it only can save images in "test mode", but it CAN save images.

Officers evaluating images are not permitted to take cameras, cell phones or photo-enabled devices into the resolution room.

Screeners (not "officers") are not allowed to steal iPads and money from passengers either, but there are PLENTY of incidents where this has happened.

Initially, it was feared by the traveling public that these images would be leaked and posted online. This has not happened.

Yet.

Oh, and Bob- you seen to have time to respond to certain blogs online, but never any time to respond to certain other incidents, like terrorizing an 11-year old girl. Funny, that.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you've seen the example of the image. Just what part of that image would lead you to "light sexual play"? Remember you're in a room by yourself and you have about 15 seconds to view the image. The idea is preposterous.
Since officers are prohibited from using tobacco while in uniform and on duty, and e-cigarettes aren't tobacco, there's a gray area here. It probably shouldn't happen if the focus in on screening, but really, how am I affected if a screener in a small room is puffing on an e-cig?
Just what is the mechanism whereby the extremely small dose of x-ray radiation has an effect on the electronics of your insulin pump?
And finally, do you think maybe the manufacturer was able to provide TSA with some sample images before the machines were delivered?

Anonymous said...

How about reporting on the "conduct and privacy" in the private patdown rooms when a passenger is *required* by TSA to go into the private room with the door closed.

Why does TSA's website not mention the possibility that a passenger may be coerced into a private room even if they would prefer a public screening?

What are the limits on TSA conduct in these private rooms? How is there any accountability given the rooms lack cameras and the door is closed and latched.

Is TSA required to allow passengers traveling alone to summon a non-TSA witness if they want (in my experience TSA refused to call a LEO or an airline rep)?

Anonymous said...

The pictures shown are bogus. Here are the pix used in the lawsuit by epic. I think these are more representative of what they see in the perv booth:
http://epic.org/privacy/body_scanners/Body_Scan_Pic.pdf

Anonymous said...

A few questions:

Suddenly a former employee is now considered a "uninformed sketchy third-hand sources?" Why?

Weren't you guys suing the manufacturers of your little machines over the fact that they did not install the privacy software correctly, meaning your agents saw MUCH more than you were telling the public?

Why do the machines have hard drives if they are not supposed to save images? And you say there has never been a leak. A two second google search says differently (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1330327/Airport-security-breach-naked-body-scanner-images-leaked-online.html). Comments?

Anonymous said...

Bob, if that "blurred image" were of a kid, you would be disseminating child pornography.

AIT amounts to a virtual strip search, and no sugar-coating will get around that.

Perhaps if this sample image were printed billboard-size and displayed above each checkpoint, Americans would wake up to what their government is doing to them.

Unknown said...

"Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer."

WRONG!!!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-14/tsa-vendor-denies-faking-test-of-body-imaging-software.html


Thanks to the fake tests, my stocks with OSIS (RapiScan) went from the high 70s to the low 40s in one week! :(

@SkyWayManAz said...

A cousin of mine used to work for TSA and his comments about your agency echo so much of what this blog owner has posted. The only major differnce is this post as he quit before AIT was rolled out.

GSOLTSO said...

Anon sez - "And you say there has never been a leak. A two second google search says differently"

The images in the link you provide were from a different organization, I can find no indication that TSA has had a similar situation occur.

West
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
The images in the link you provide were from a different organization, I can find no indication that TSA has had a similar situation occur.

But it was the same machines, you know the ones that "cannot" save images....

Oh, and what about terrorizing 11 year old girls, 'West'? When will you guys come out as defending that?

Ami said...

"Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared"

If the scanners can't store or save images, they would not need to be deleted.


The privacy issues remain weather the raw scan image is viewed by a human or computer software.

mcmadnes said...

The TSA screeners I have encountered at JFK Terminal 5 are nothing but professional. I fly often and have never felt uncomfortable about going through the body scanner. I like that they have the image right there at the scanner and when they see something on the scanner, they show me and it is usually my necklace or bracelet that shows up. I take comfort in them being there to protect me rather than offense that they have assure themselves that I am a safe person to allow fly.

Anonymous said...

@ mcmadnes

It is wonderful that you have only had positive TSA experiences. That does not negate the thousands of negative experiences of other flyers.

You may "feel safer" at being approved by the federal gov't to fly, but were you ever a threat to aviation safety? Why does "proving" you are not a threat to low-level civilian employees (comparable to motor vehicle clerks) make you feel safer?

Do you have to prove to a gov't employee you are not a threat to public transit safety every time you want to ride a bus or train? No? Does that make you feel unsafe?

Do you have to prove to a gov't employee sitting outside your home you are not a terrorist before you drive or walk down the street? No? Do you feel unsafe?

TSA costs US taxpayers $8 billion per year. Do you want to spend that much money for only a feeling?

Anonymous said...

"Okay, so you've seen the example of the image. Just what part of that image would lead you to 'light sexual play'?"

What if the example image is not the explicit one that the TSA viewers in the private room see?

Also, the need for a privacy filter only proves that the machines are capable of generating explicit images.

Anonymous said...

Appears that TSA and the LA Times notes that the TSA are always professional, only searching for prohibited items, and would never laugh at your AIT image: http://tinyurl.com/ark9xop.

So rest assured, the TSA would never joke about something like that... never... never ever... oh wait.. http://tinyurl.com/2asmt5g -- okay... maybe they only do it about themselves and never, ever the passengers then, right?

Tony said...

"To further protect passenger privacy, backscatter technology has a privacy filters that blur images"

The images look quite detailed to me?