back to article US airport body scanners can store and export images

Full body scanners at US airports can transmit digital strip search images of people, contrary to US Transportation Security Authority assurances. The TSA has maintained that such scanners cannot store or transmit scanned body images of people, stating that "the machines have zero storage capability." A TSA release stated …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Come on TSA....

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.....

    ......Except of course where you want to hide that your new kit CAN make kiddy porn, along with pics of wobbly wangers and saggy boobs....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Just to piss them off it might be time to get a Prince Albert

  2. Mark 110

    Poor security staff

    I really feel for the operators - they are going to have to look at some horrendous stuff. Lerts face it the average human looks pretty ropey naked.

    As for anyone trying to say these images are pornographic thats utter tosh. Surely porn involves a sexual context - standing in a scanner in an airport has no sexual context. Embarrising yes - porn no.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      What's porn?

      To some odd people, pictures of shoes involve sexual content. I once peripherally knew somebody who enjoyed nappies (US-diapers) a little too much.

      To YOU and I a bunch of monchrome pictures taken at airport security is probably not in the slightest bit titilating. I'm sure there's somebody out there who'd pay for them..... especially if, say, Katie Holmes, Sandra Bullock, or somebody else frequently seen in glossy mags was "scanned".

      Embarrassing? Always. I still fail to see why these pictures are even necessary, can't a member of staff just look and say "nope, not carrying an Uzi"?

      Pornographic? That depends on who is looking.

    2. TimeMaster T


      How an image is generated is irrelevant to how the viewer perceives an image.

      How many males (and females) where sexually excited as teenagers by photos of topless native woman in National Geographic? The photos in NG are not sexual in nature nor where they meant to be sexually exciting but some viewers still considered them sexually exciting. Remember "Porky's"?

      Or the Page 3 Girl, those are not sexual in content or context, just a topless buxom baby against a plain background and yet look at how exciting they are to some.

      Its =>perception<= of an image, not the context of its creation that matters.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    i am going to see

    if is available, i can smell money here...

  4. Paul_Murphy

    I see now.

    'Our scanner cannot store data' - but you can plug in a USB device and it can store it on that, or you can use the ethernet port and a NAS, or indeed a remote networked server with petabyte RAID.

    'But it's not ON the scanner' - true but you're still lying aren't you?

    'err - no?'

    Ok - so which political party will remove all this stupid over-mothering of the population and bring back some decent values and the concept of personal responsibility?

    Roll on the elections.


  5. Anonymous Coward


    I'm more bothered about the scanners in the first place. They seem to go down the same route as our police state - "you are guilty until proven innocent".

    I will happily pass through any unintrusive detection system that leaves my privacy intact and does not impact on my journey time. But to be forced to basically submit to a full strip search is disgusting and only hands the terrorists their victory. I'm fully in favour of profiling. That would mean I can walk through a simple scanner and be on my way and those who fit the terrorist profiles can be subjected to any inhumane treatment imaginable. Then the terrorists would've LOST, normal people would be able to carry on as before but the terrorists kind would be treated in a more harsh way.

    We mustn't let the fuckers win.

    1. Shakje

      I'm not sure if this is meant to be a joke...

      but it seems like you're essentially saying anyone who's brown with a beard deserves to be beaten until they confess to terrorism, whereas all those happy white middle class chappies should be able to carry on regardless (sorry, normal people).

      1. Daniel Wilkie
        Big Brother

        Not strictly true

        The vast majority of terroristts caught in this country (Islamic terrorists at any rate, obviously the profile differs depending on their motivations) have been African muslims and not (as I'm assuming you meant) Asian muslims.

        So there :p

      2. gjw
        Big Brother


        You basically describe a kind of Israeli system (although it's not nearly as brutal) which works very fine for them. I wouldn't mind if they introduced this worldwide and it's really worth to think it over.

        Human rights is, always have been and should be, a multilateral relationship. Perhaps it's time that our Muslim friends are going to recognise that fact. And yes I do see that generalisations are bad, in principle.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: well ...

          And how exactly can you tell (by looking) that someone is Muslim?

          What about white converts? What happens if you just so happen to look like a Brazilian plumber? (or have some other dusky / swarthy appearance that is nothing to do with Asia, the Middle East or Africa).

          Basically you're saying that any non-white is fair game (regardless of where they're from or what they believe in).

          Perhaps these 'anything goes' interrogations should only be applied to circumcised men (regardless of race) because all Muslims are circumcised, so you can be sure that uncut men are not followers of Islam.

          That way my black ass could get through customs no problem (seeing as I'm wholly in tact)


    2. Bilgepipe


      And what happens when a terrorist doesn't match this "magical" profile of yours and wanders straight through security? These scanners raise a lot of questions, but as I don't have anything to hide I'm not against them.

      1. Dale Richards


        If you have nothing to hide, why wear clothes at all? Just take them all off, and then we can all see that you're (probably) not concealing any weapons.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    ....they held back the info that it can store images and transport them.

    but on the flip side carefully vetted people using the equipment, working in pairs yada yada yada -

    and lead lined pants as i go through, all they will get is my moobs :D

  7. PaulK
    Paris Hilton

    Can I have the one with...

    ... the optional http server! Sweet.

    Paris because I need some more smut.

  8. david wilson

    Testt/training modes are presumably needed?

    Surely, a scanner that didn't have the capability of saving images for training (or testing) purposes would be pretty crap, unless it was thought worthwhile buying different scanners to do the testing on (even if they were basically the same scanner with different firmware).

    In the end you have to trust the people involved not to [be stupid enough to] capture images when they shouldn't be doing that, and then disseminating them, and/or trust the manufacturers to set functionality such that in normal usage, images are always transient.

    Stepping back, however, and thinking more generally about a surveillance society, unless an image is identifiable as a person, or comes labelled with a name, there's no obvious damage that could result to the subject even if the image was posted on the internet - if the person involved never found out, nor did anyone who knew them, they couldn't be said to be being harmed in any obvious manner.

    I guess if someone was paranoid, the worry it might be happening might be harmful to them, but they could worry whether or not anything was actually happening at all, let alone happening to them.

    It's also hard to see there'd be much of a market for body scan pictures, unless they were identifiable (which would put people sourcing them at real risk of being found out).

    People who want to look at naked bodies on the internet aren't short of choice, nor are people who want to look at more-or-less clothed bodies and use some imagination as to what's underneath.

    For people who get a kick out of real or staged candid pictures, I'm sure they can already find enough.

    Maybe there'd be a niche fetish market for body scan pictures, but I'm not sure it'd be one worth someone risking their job and/or a conviction in order to satisfy.

    1. TheMountain

      You're forgetting a corollary to Rule 34

      If you can imagine it, someone has made pr0n of it. The corollary being that, if someone makes pr0n of it, it's because someone out there gets their jollies looking at it. You can be sure there are plenty of sweaty palms over the idea of voyeurism at the airport.

      1. david wilson

        Sweaty palms?

        >>"If you can imagine it, someone has made pr0n of it."

        Quite possibly, but I'd have thought there wasn't a great amount to distinguish one image from the next - might not quite be a case of seen one, seen them all, but maybe pretty close.

        Personally, I reckon that there would be rather more sweaty palms among people who get a kick out of being paranoid about the idea than from people likely to lap up any possible blurry, low contrast and low resolution product.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's a bit of an understatement.

    Two options: This was an blatant lie or a statement made by someone not competent to make it.

    Either way, shows how much you can trust the TSA.

  10. MonkeyBot

    Free celeb porn!

    I bet LAX will be swamped with applications.

    "It's an entirely random search, Miss Alba - just for security, you understand. Now, if you'd like to join the queue over there behind Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie..."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No news

    Did you expect them not to lie?

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Mark 110

    "Surely porn involves a sexual context - standing in a scanner in an airport has no sexual context. Embarrising yes - porn no."

    In the US perhaps (and boy do they have some bloaters, not least among the TSA airport staff, some of whom could contain 90g of PETN going off all by themselves. The males are'nt much better)

    However in the UK, which is planning to introduce them as well *any* images of *naked* children would fall foul of the new p()rn law. Oh yes indeed, someone must think of the children and protect them from these uniformed perverts.

  13. LinkOfHyrule
    Big Brother


    *Goes off and registers*

  14. jane 3

    health and safety

    The point that I have not yet seen addressed in any detail is the potential health hazard for regular travellers who are exposed repeatedly to low-level X-rays.

    The alien in case I mutate into something with far too many legs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      If you haven't seen it addressed in any detail,...

      ...that is merely because you are ignorant and haven't bothered looking. Try wikipedia.

      "Twenty-five micro Rem is equal to the amount of background radiation every human is exposed to (from the air and soil) at sea level every 1.5 hours and is also equal to the radiation exposure from cosmic rays when traveling in an airplane at altitude for 2 minutes."

      Black helicopter because you are paranoid, narrowly beating FAIL icon because you posted purely to show your lack of knowledge of something that is in fact well-known and easy to find out.

      1. TimeMaster T

        Cosmic rays != X-rays

        nor is background radiation, a small fraction yes but not much.

        All radiation is =>potentially<= harmful, it depends on the amount and type. I would have no issues with working in an area high in beta radiation wearing a basic dust bunny coverall and a face shield because most beta particles can't penetrate a sheet of paper much less my skin. However I would have second thoughts about working in an environment with the same rad levels but of a penetrating radiation like x-rays.

        And its pretty lame to insult someone while hiding behind the AC tag. Whats the matter? Afraid they might come after you? Isn't that a little paranoid?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Wont someone think of the children.

    I understand the need to security at airports however as a father of 2 young children I sure as hell do not trust anyone who has access to an xray machine which removes my kids clothes. I will give it 20mins before some perv guard post the 1st xray porn on the web and makes an ass out of the TSA.

  16. Tim Croydon

    Foil strips

    I'm tempted to write something rude in foil strips stuck to my chest.

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

      I had a similar thought myself

      But then realised that this would be a good way to get yourself a _REAL_ strip-search, and also probably a body search and possibly finding yourself 'held for questioning'. I twouldn't be quite so funny after that.

  17. John Murgatroyd

    Low risk, or less risk

    Like the systems non-ability to store images (which it must be able to do for evidential purposes) we are assured that the system uses "low-level X-rays".

    But breast scans use low-level X-rays...and according to the nrpb there are (statistically) 64 cases of breast cancer a year caused by mammography.

    Children are not (yet) to be scanned by airports in the UK, but whether they should be exposed to unneeded radiation anyway is another question.

    Basically: the older you are the lower the risk (less life remaining)

    The reverse is also true.

    And since the makers KNEW what they were saying was untrue anyway....

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 12:31

    Your "us and them" approach will work fine for you until the first time a (for example) white male attempts to smuggle explosive onto a flight. Then you will be subject to the same inhumane treatment you are wishing on others, since you will now fit a terrorist profile.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    You what?

    "In the end you have to trust the people involved not to [be stupid enough to] capture images when they shouldn't be doing that, and then disseminating them, and/or trust the manufacturers to set functionality such that in normal usage, images are always transient."

    No - We "trust" them in exactly the same way we trust people not ot have minicams on their shoes, or put cams in changing rooms.

    No, you have use profiling and intelligence properly. If you use scanners, they will find an alternative way of getting IED's on to aircarft.

  20. wgae
    Big Brother

    No surprise here

    ...really. Anyone who would have expected anything else (regardless of prior statements made by anyone on anything) is a fool. High-res images will probably transmitted over free & open WiFi connections to the server.

    Ah, and if you supply the airline with your social networking account/s, the image/s will go right up there for all to see. If not, only Google will get the high-res image and will produce a pixelated version for Google to use.

    After all, Eric "data privacy guru" Schmidt knows best how to deal with that.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's so bloody exciting about air passengers without clothes?

    For goodness' sake, you can go on the internet and get free photographs of nude people who aren't particularly attractive. Kissing and everything. I assume you can even still easily download informal pictures of children, although not with anything appalling going on, you will have to imagine it. Or join one of those awful rings. But my point is, all the nude pictures that anyone could want are available, without getting them out of these machines. I can only see anyone wanting to do that for (1) a famous person, (2) a neighbour or friend that they've always fancied but daren't... you know, or (3) using the scenario itself as an exciting fantasy. (I don't think it's wrong just to have an airport strip search fantasy, whatever your role in the story is. Fantasies aren't real.)

    Anyway, it's quite well known that there are infra-red video cameras that also see through clothes quite well. I expect that pictures or video taken with those will be passed off as airport scanner pictures.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Congratulations on being suckered

    Congrats on falling for a classic con. Here's how it goes:

    TSA: We're going to do virtual strip-search of everybody

    Joe Public: ZOMG!!11! Personal privacy FTW!!1!

    TSA: Oh, and it turns out the pictures could end up online...

    Joe Public: Double ZOMG!!11! Not that!! Strangers might see blurry outlines of my dangly bits!

    TSA: OK, we'll prevent the pictures being anything but transient

    Joe Public: Whew, OK then. Go ahead with your virtual strip search

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Tear a strip off

    I think I'll just strip off and wander through naked :) Save them the expense :) I don't want to be irradiated or whatever other electro-magnetic nonsense they have going on. Naked it is :) See how they like that :) Now, where can I hide that.....

  24. Richard Porter

    Why don't they..

    just give everyone a full MRI scan. That would save the NHS loads of money.

  25. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Boost for January gym membership

    I fly a lot - if my naked body is goign to be flashed across airport display screens I'm going to have to lose some waistline and get some abs.

    How long do you have to hold your guts in during this scan?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    waste of money

    As it has already been announced that under 18s won't be scanned the next terrorist will travel with his/her family get the bomb parts from the kids and blow the whole lot to hell.

  27. Frozen Ghost

    Useful to store them for evidence?

    If there was ever a successfully attack on a plane wouldn't it be useful to go back and review the images of all passengers who boarded the plane to look for clues?

    If the system was designed properly - e.g. encrypted storage that could only be accessed using master codes held by a central body, TSA/FBI/NSA (pick an acronym). As for pictures leaking, anybody can just photo the screen to get around the fact that pictures aren't stored.

  28. GeorgeTuk

    Has anyone actually seen the pictures?

    They are rubbish and if that consitutes pron then I for one am dismayed.

    And of course it has the ability to store images, you want the evidence right? It is whether the ones shipped for use in airports actually have that ability switched on.

    And lastly just what were the manufacturers going to do with these scanners before the terrorist attacks...makes you wonder eh? Lucky they had some ready to go.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      No need to store.

      " want the evidence right?"

      No, the evidence comes from the subsequent search and discovery when something untoward is seen. Which is more likely to be useful in court, a blurry picture with a bomb shaped bit in it, or the actual device confiscated (or, more likely, detailed photographs thereof)?

      Also remember here that the blurry picture is of little or no use for positive indentification and thus would not be of help in proving that the accused is genuinely the person the device was taken from, should the "it's a fit-up" defence be trotted out.

      The only reason I can think of for retaining the pics would be so when flight XXX to wherever goes off bang, you could go back through the pics, find what was missed, figure out from the timestamp who was at the screen at the time and throw them to the wolves.

  29. heyrick Silver badge


    So, could the Electronic Privacy Information Center call this a fail? It'd be a genuine EPIC Fail! Hoohooheehee!

  30. Stevie Silver badge


    How long will it be before we hear reports of a long check-in line stalled because someone "forgot" to take the machine out of "training mode" and it hung with a full disk of images (that aren't there, of course)?

  31. Anonymous Coward

    I'll tell you what's so bloody exciting

    So you've been waiting to go through check in, you're beyond bored and you've scoped the talent in the queue ahead of you. You see a bit of something nice you wouldn't mind being a mile high with. And that nice border guard probably would have similar thoughts. However that guard can get a little... closer... than you can to complete the picture in your head.

    And on another topic, has anyone researched the long-term safety of millimeter waves? Should my pregnant wife be allowed to pass through the scanner?

  32. AustinTX

    Just a bit obvious...

    Did it ever occur to anyone, that those example black and white "nude x-ray" photos, which every article and blog on this topic puts up, involves a body scanner that stored and transferred the image?

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