When x-ray and millimetre wave body scanners were first installed in airports, governments and manufacturers told us that the images produced were never stored. This was despite the fact that technically, images MUST be stored in order to be displayed. Refreshing an image on a computer screen at 75Hz means that data has to be read from somewhere. Sending the image to a remote location for viewing means the same thing. The TSA’s own web page says
“Advanced imaging technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image”
although the very next sentence appears to contradict that:
“…and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer.”
I’m not sure how you delete something that has not been stored. What the TSA probably meant was that the images wouldn’t be stored permanently. Unfortunately, that isn’t true either. In late 2010 Gizmodo released the first 100 leaked body scan photos, stored by machines used in a Florida Federal courthouse. It turns out the images had been left on the machine as it was being prepared to be returned to the manufacturer – opening them up, it would appear, to even more authorised viewing.Privacy advocates have been up in arms since the first introduction of these body scanners. As it turns out, with good reason. Proponents continue to say body scanners are necessary in the fight against terrorism. Is the potential privacy risk worth the possible increased security?