New BWI scanners avoid 'virtual strip search'
The Transportation Security Administration has replaced the software on its enhanced imaging screening devices at BWI Marshall Airport to avoid the explicit body images that some privacy advocates had labeled a "virtual strip search."
BWI is one of several airports nationally where the new software is now operational. Under the new system, if something suspicious is detected by the scanner, it shows up as a small yellow box on a generic body image that both the TSA screener and the passenger can see. The TSA said it will no longer need to have an officer in a room off checkpoint scanning a projection of each passenger's individual form.
TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said the new technology is being deployed at 40 airports around the country with a total of about 240 machines. BWI now has 10 of the devices, deployed at Piers A, B, D and E.
The new software will be installed in all of the TSA's millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging technology machines. Riley said the agency is still working on developing technology that could be used with another form of advanced imaging known as "backscatter" machines.
Riley said the new program will cost roughly $2.7 million to deploy at the 40 airports, but he said the agency should be able to recoup much of that money through savings in staffing and maintaining the separate rooms for viewing the images.
The previous software, which generated an image that distinctly showed individual bodily attributes under a passenger's clothing, was widely resented by travelers -- sometimes for political and religious reasons.
TSA and BWI officials expressed hope the new technology would allay some of the concerns raised by privacy advocates.