Body scanners CAN store and transmit scanned images

Posted By: admin

Published to Privacy Concerns on Sep 30, 2010

In February 2010 the then UK transport secretary Lord Adonis, in an interview with BBC breakfast stated, "it is very important to stress that the images which are captured by body scanners are immediately deleted after the passenger has gone through the body scanner." Adonis went on to stress how airport staff trained in the procedure are fully trained and supervised.

Yet there have been reports of a heathrow airport scanner operative receiving a police warning for allegedly ogling a female colleague and taking a photo of her as she mistakenly walked through the scanner. Furthermore, bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan stated, in an interview with Jonathan Ross, that he had autographed printed scans of his body that were presented to him by female security officers after he underwent a full body scan at Heathrow airport.

If, as Adonis stated, images are immediately deleted after scanning how did printed images of Khan’s body come to be made? Furthermore the public was told that the identity of people being scanned would be kept secret so how could Khan’s image have been related to him? Although a spokesperson for BAA has denied Khan’s claims stating that images cannot be printed or stored in any way there’s evidence to show their statement is a blatant lie.

In recent months in America the TSA has admitted that it requires all body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for "testing, training and evaluation purposes", stating that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports. This is an about turn from earlier statements when the TSA and other federal agencies insisted that images generated by the body scanning process could not be stored or recorded. Documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a Washington DC based advocacy group, show that the body scanning devices clearly do have the capacity to store and transmit images.

This comes on the heels of an announcement by the US Marshals Services that it had secretly saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimetre wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse. In a letter obtained from the Marshals service by EPIC, William Bordley an associate general counsel with the Marshals service acknowledges that "approximately 35,314 images have been stored on the Brijot Gen 2 machine" used in the Orlando, Florida courthouse.

In a 70 page PDF document outlining the TSA's procurement specifications there are clear criteria stating that the scanner must "allow exporting of image data in real time" and provide a mechanism for "high-speed transfer of image data" over the network in certain modes. Given that scanner manufacturers are touting their products on both sides of the Atlantic is it not reasonable to assume that the same capabilities will exist in machines used in both UK and US airports? Given the current climate of fear surrounding national security is it unreasonable to speculate that the capability to store and transmit images would be seen as highly desirable? Maybe so when incidents such as Khan’s seem to confirm this is the case.


Tags: BAA, UK

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