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Legislation Would Make Sharing TSA's Body Scan Images a Crime

Feb 8, 2011 – 3:41 PM
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Sharon Weinberger

Sharon Weinberger Contributor

Proposed new legislation would protect travelers who worry that images taken of them by airport scanners could end up on the Internet.

An amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill would make it a crime to share images taken by the Transportation Security Administration's full-body scanners, which produce graphic images of the human body.

Those found guilty of violating the Security Screening Confidential Data Privacy Act, legislation being co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, could spend up to a year in prison and be fined up to $100,000.

A female traveler submits to a full body scan before heading to her flight at Pittsburgh International Airport November 24, 2010.
Jeff Swensen, Getty Images
A female traveler submits to a full-body scan at Pittsburgh International Airport in November. Proposed legislation would make it a crime to share images from the scan.
"This law sends a loud and clear message to the flying public: Not only will we do everything we can to protect your safety, we will also do everything we can to protect your privacy," Schumer said in a statement announcing the amendment. "As we put in place new technologies to detect and capture those who wish to do us harm, we need to do everything we can to protect the privacy rights of the air travelers."

At issue are the new generation of airport scanners, called Advanced Imaging Technology, which use millimeter waves to create images of the human body. Privacy concerns about those images, compounded by enhanced pat-down procedures that some find overly invasive, have sparked widespread outrage.

Though the TSA insists the scanners cannot save images, the same scanners operated at a federal courthouse in Florida were found to have to stored hundreds of images. TSA says the function on its scanners that would allow it to store images has been disabled.

"TSA refrains from commenting on pending legislation, however, it might be helpful to know TSA has regulations in place that penalize anyone who releases AIT images given the images are deemed Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and are not publicly releasable," Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman, told AOL News in an emailed statement.

The congressional move to penalize misuse of images is only the latest attempt to address the rising wave of dissatisfaction over new TSA screening procedures. Last week, TSA Director Ted Pistole announced that the agency was testing out new software at two airports that would allow the scanners to detect explosives and other dangerous objects, while producing only a generic outline of a person rather than a detailed body image.
Filed under: Nation, Politics, AOL Original
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