The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole announced today that the agency will install new software on some body-scanning machines to make images less revealing and air passengers feel less stripped down.
The new technology, called Automated Target Recognition (ATR), will be installed on millimeter wave machines, which make up about half of the 488 full-body scanners in use at U.S. airports. Images will no longer be passenger-specific, but instead will “auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person for all passengers,” according to the TSA statement. The announcement is the first significant step the TSA has taken to allay public concerns of privacy issues since the scanners came into use in 2010. (We detailed the new ATR technology when the TSA began testing it.)
TSA officials also added that passengers will now be able to see the same image that screeners see. And, because agents can now view the generic image at the checkpoint rather than having to go to a booth to view passenger-specific images privately, security lines could potentially speed up.
The TSA says that, in the fall, it also plans to test similar software on scanners using backscatter technology, the other type of body scanner currently in use.