back to article Exposed: leaked body scans published online

Casting doubt on government assurances that full-body scanners don't violate air travelers' privacy, Gizmodo has published 100 photographs saved in violation of stated policy, taken by one such machine deployed in a federal courthouse in Florida. Fortunately for the people photographed, the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner used …


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  1. Peter H. Coffin

    I'm not sure this proves anything at all....

    since this is different machines, used under different protocols, with different promises.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Please don't pretend to be surprised by this. People are either incompetent or evil, or both.

    1. Code Monkey

      Depressingly true

      I'm not in the least surprised.

      From a purely selfish point of view, my perv-scanned photos are only of interest to the chubby-chasing community. It's the beautfiul people I feel sorry for.

  3. Sam Liddicott
    Big Brother

    Just who

    Just who's cattle are we? that we need to be id'd numbered, tracked and scanned like this.

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge

    There has to be a way... save the images for evidence if someone goes through with a Glock or plastic explosive strapped to their thigh.

    For the US Gov to claim it cannot be done is ludicrous. Wait for the first celebrity pics to appear.

    Problem is Air Force One does not enforce a groin grope of the Pres every flight. Things would change pretty quick if they did.

    1. Mark 65

      Air Force one

      "Problem is Air Force One does not enforce a groin grope of the Pres every flight. Things would change pretty quick if they did."

      Not if Bill Clinton was still in power.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There has to be a way

      From article

      >'automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer,'

      Note, it states "automatically deleted after it is cleared", in other words if it isn't cleared it is saved.

      Whether there is a link between the image being cleared and the person in the scanner being cleared isn't clear (sorry). It may be possible that the remote operator to clear the person without clearing the image.

      Neither is it clear whether the image being cleared is real-time or whether it is saved then cleared later.

      What is clear is that we need a full definition of the meaning of cleared.

      1. rcdicky

        Your post...

        isn't clear

      2. Michael C


        In order to scan the next person, and error flag, warning alarm, etc, must be cleared. This automatically deletes the image.

        it is not "saved" at all, it is simple "on screen" until cleared. it is a snapshot, stored in memory. The person has left the machine, but we need the image on screen for 30 seconds or so to analyze it. Maybe longer if they think they see something, or want the opinion of their superior.

        They do NOT hold up the line when there's an anomoly, they flick the "pat him down" button, trust the other TSA guys will do their part and find what the anomaly was in the pat down, and scan the next person in line to keep it moving...

    3. Michael C


      The scan is a "probable cause" for a further inspection, at which point they FIND the contraband. The image is not evidence, the CONTERABAND is.

      It CAN in fact be done, but doing so means holding up the entire line while the image is maintained on the screen until a senior officer can come enter a special pass code and only then ca it be saved in secure storage while must later be accessed by technicians. You can't just plug a thumb drive into this thing...

      the screening process works like this:

      - agent has you stand in the scanner.

      - person in another room looks at the scan and presses a "Yay/Nay" button. (or an actual alarm if they see something, like a GUN)

      - upon Nay, you are escorted to an area for further screening, where another agent, under the watch of a 3rd, pats you down.

      - in the meantime, the "nay" flag is cleared (deleting the image), and someone NEW is being scanned while the possible perp is still being shuffled over and patted down.

      - probably 2 or 3 more people might get scanned before they FIND something on the guy getting patted.

      If they held up the entire scanning process as often as someone needs a pat down because something "suspicious" was on the screen, getting through security would take 5-10 times as long, and require twice the staff.

      the image is deleted long before the perp is identified as having contraband. The courts don't care about the image anyway if they have physical evidence, especially physical evidence collected in plain sight of a dozen witnesses, and on camera!. They do not need the scan image, it is deleted.

  5. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    It's obvious that in Florida only overweight old people ever go to the courthouse. Nary a beach-body in sight.

    The resolution of those scans is pathetic. How the hell can they claim to be "scanning" anything. It's like watching the movie Predator while a bit stoned.

    1. /dev/null


      How are you supposed to see concealed weapons in these fuzzy blobs? You'd have more luck just looking at the photographic images on the right hand side!

      1. Michael C

        becaus eyou don't understand it

        Anything "hard" aka, not skin, clothing, etc) shows up BRIGHT on this scan. Bra wires, belt buckles, any material denser than skin shows up as a bright spot.

        The SHAPE of that spot is not even critical, simply that there is "something" there, which simply triggers other TSA agents to investigate further with a vigorous groping.

        Want to avoid these? Wear pants without a belt. Wear a bra with no wires (or no bra if you can pull it off). Soft comfortable clothing with few buttons, embellishments, etc. Don't wear multiple layers, rely on a thin jacket if you get chilly (which they make you take off for the scan). If you need to wear any kind of brace, expect they may ask you to remove it, and simply expect you'll be patted down, don't argue. If you have any metal inside your body from surgery, you might want proof of that in your baggage handy. Put as much as possible in your bags in advance, don;t spend 5 minutes emptying pockets in line... Have little more than a wallet and phone on you (keys can be in your bag, you don;t need the anymore, right?) Be as prepared as possible to go through the line and make their job easy and you'll avoid pat down and anomalies.

        1. OffBeatMammal

          wow, just wow

          and this is considered acceptable?

          have these machines caught a single terrorist for all the potential harm they do?

          anyone who thinks the TSA (or the mandatory use of these machines in the UK) is going to make any difference should read this

          and visit

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: becaus eyou don't understand it

          And stand on one leg with the raised leg no more than 3.6cm off the ground and no lower than 3.5cm. Also be prepared to stick your right finger in your left ear and your left arm up your own arse. You might also like to remove fingernails now to save time later on.

          All to make the job of the TSA easier you understand? Sod off.

  6. Bucky 2


    The unfairness here is that they get to look and my junk, but I can't see theirs.

    I understand if they have to wear shoes the better to chase criminals, and holsters for weapons, but beyond that, security agents should bare it and share it. Fair's fair.

    1. IglooDude

      Fair point, but...

      I'm not exactly possessed of a beach body myself, but if the TSA folks I've seen are required to display all, I daresay there'll be more airsickness bags used in the airports than aboard the planes proper.

  7. bazza Silver badge


    User Requirement:

    Must not be able to save pictures

    Contractor response:


    Resulting Design Feature:

    Quick, go and hide the save button deep in some engineering menu, don't tell anyone it's there.

    User Verification Test:

    Can't see a save button on the screen. I don't need to know what an engineering menu is.

    User Acceptance:

    Looks alright to me.

    Honestly, how hard would it be to put a lock on the case of the machine, glue up all the USB ports and not fit an optical drive? At least doing that would force the pervs to take photos of the screen instead.

  8. thecakeis(not)alie


    This sort of thing isn't possible! Politicians, corporations and law enforcement would never lie to us! El Reg, I demand you retract this article with will apologies to everyone involved. You are obviously pinko commie freedom-hating leftist scum for reprinting the flagrant lies of Gizmo...

    ...okay I can't even type that with a straight face.

    Well done, those guys!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picture proof.

    We already knew those pictures were being saved, quite contrary not only to stated policy but claimed impossibility, making these assurances so many bald-faced lies. And if those who watch over us lie about such a simple thing, then what don't they lie about? The prudent assumption is therefore, they'll lie about everything. And that in turn means they're part of the problem, not part of the solution. National security my august backside. There's quite a difference between not telling and telling lies.

    That the pictures are grainy might cause some pooh-poohing but that would gloss over two important little details: First, newer scanners are indeed much more invasive. Second, apparently these scanners are useless at detection and therefore a complete waste of resources. Even before arguing that the new scanners are no good either, for different reasons argued elsewhere. It's just that these scanners so painfully clearly are made up entirely of very expensive make-believe. Instead of having a sack of goons fuss over them, replace each machine with a single guard giving every passenger the evil eye. It would do more to deter evildoers.

    1. Trygve

      "bald-faced lies"

      Yeah, damn these clean-shaven liars to heck! We want to be lied to by suitably hirsute individuals.

      Mandatory mutton-chops and Fu Manchu 'taches for all government spokespeople, or else!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Mandatory what?

        You unequal-opportunity based on gender -ist, you!

  10. Tron

    Leaky bursts.

    One of those scans appears to capture an image of someone standing a good way off. Exactly how much stuff are these things pumping out all over the place? Working near one might have unfortunate effects. Passive smoking TNG?

    Will folk have to stand inside a Faraday cage to be irradiated? That'll scare the kids, but they can always be groped by officials instead.

    BOGOF irradiation offer.


    Just don't fly.

  11. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Why ?

    Why does this remind me of the Sony CD DRM that was defeated by a black Magic Marker ?

    Why does this remind me of a Space Shuttle Disaster enabled by Power Point ?

    Doesn't anyone read Feynman anymore ?????

    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

  12. Major Variola

    European groping?

    Anyone who's designed a system like this knows there are diagnostic modes, and modes to offload images.

    All images from all scanners should be posted after a 24 wait period.

    BTW, do europeans let themselves get irradiated xor groped? Just wondering. Can't imagine they do, which is a security hole :-)

    1. Toastan Buttar


      "Irradiated XOR groped" ?

      There's a truth table for that!

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      The biggest security 'hole is the one sitting behind the scanner's monitor!

  13. JaitcH

    Can you imagine TSA NOT publishing ...

    the first person they catch secreting a prohibited object on board?

    The Homeland Security guys will having press conferences and releasing all sorts pictures they claimed to 'discard.'

  14. Robert Heffernan

    Looks Like..

    It looks like someone worked out what that "Prt Scr/Sys Rq" button on the keyboard does.

  15. Danny Bowman

    Stated Promises

    “According to the TSA — and of course other agencies — images from the scanners are 'automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer,'” Gizmodo states.

    It is deleted from the system after it is cleared - which clearly states that this promise only applies if it is cleared. If something is seen, the picture has to be kept - otherwise they have no proof. Without proof, there can be no due course.

    Example: Ms. Jones goes through, the security officer feels they have detected a prohibited item on her person. Security is alerted, and they take her aside, and attempt to verify. Item turns out to be similar in shape and size to a prohibited item, but not actually a prohibited item. Ms. Jones decides to sue, accusing security of groping her without due cause. If the picture was deleted, there is no way to prove either way.

    In the pictures, it appears all of them are from possible detection cases - cases where security, or the computer, identified something that might be prohibited. The promise does not apply, because the picture was no cleared, and so no promise has been broken.

    1. Dave Bell


      There are the politicians assuring people that pictures can't be kept. They're saying it's impossible, and the news media believe them.

      Liars or idiots: either is bad.

    2. James 139


      In the way its been "sold" to the public its been implied that you go through, someone in a booth looks at the image and presses a button if it looks suspect, then you get groped.

      It does seem that perhaps this isnt the case.

    3. John Wilson
      Thumb Down

      Primary screening only

      Erm "If something is seen, the picture has to be kept - otherwise they have no proof. Without proof, there can be no due course."

      You mean they couldn't possibly pull a suspicious individual out of the line and call them in for 'additional screening', could they. There's no possible way for the security team to say "excuse me sir, is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to be posing naked"?

      Of course they don't have to keep the image. The image isn't proof of anything. Don't be so daft.

      1. Danny Bowman

        Ms. Jones

        Did you read my post? Did you read the example? Did you understand it?

        If Ms. Jones gets pulled aside because of what was on the screen, and they find nothing, and the image was deleted, whats to stop her from accusing them of groping her for no reason?

        If we delete the pictures, we would have to accept that the TSA guards are allowed to grope anyone, with full immunity, because we have no evidence that they groped someone they had no reason to be groping, and it's still innocent until proven guilty.

        Thus, its in your best interest that they keep the picture of you that wasn't cleared; if they groped you for no reason, you will have evidence for recourse.

  16. Kanhef

    From what I've seen

    (pics from better scanners, not the Gizmodo ones), it's really not worth the outrage people are working themselves into. It's still crummy black-and-white, there's not enough detail to really be interesting and the weird traces from clothing make the whole thing rather unattractive. Just two minutes of searching online will find erotica with more definition and far better lighting. It reminds me more of C-3PO than naked people.

    1. Alfred 2

      What you write may be true

      kanhef, but recent history has shown that technolocy tends to improve, certainly where graphics are concerned.

      Given the current trust issues can we all be certain that when version two of the 'perv scanner' comes out we will be told that this one cen identify every mole and wrinkle on your body?

      Not that this is the current problem. It is one of trust. We were all assured pictures couldn't be saved: it seems they can. Soon the line will be they won't be saved, esp[ecially scans of celebrities, attractive young people etc. etc.

      At least they won't want to save (or share) a scan of me. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I take it then that....

      it's OK for me to take pictures of your significant other in the shower provided I use nothing better than a 0.5 megapixel webcam then?

  17. Tom 35

    Is someone watching the watcher?

    They could just take a snap of the screen with their cell phone even if the system was locked down.

    1. Youngdog

      Exactly Tom 35 - you beat me to it

      If it can be seen, it can be saved - and no assurance in the world is going to stop that being a fact

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this really mean anything?

    It's a totally different device than what's being used in airports.

  19. Seven_Spades

    No all machines are the same

    This is a different kettle of fish

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overcompensating have said it best..

  21. Bernard M. Orwell

    "Due Course"

    Never needed Due Course to put people into Guantanamo before, why worry about it now? Evidence is a luxury, not a requirement any more it appears.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shocking: Microwaves & Gynaecologists DO THE SAME !!!!

    Microwave ovens have a poorly understood effect on your food, according to The Greeny Luddite Foundation.

    Also, it is outrageous that Gynaecologists look at naked Woman And Even Touch Them !!!!!!

    Imagine what a perv-Gyno could do with all the images he could secretly record !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Please give me that coat with my cigarettes in the pocket - their health effects are well-understood.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      A perv scanner take pictures and that we've been told it can't possibly save them. We don't have much of a choice over using a perv scanner, we do have a gynaecologist or indeed microwave oven. A gynaecologist doesn't take photographs as a matter of course, whereas the primary function of the scanner is to take pictures. Got any other crap you want to air?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        you are probably also scared about armed policemen patrolling the streets ? They could abuse their guns and shoot people !

        The government could abuse the secret services ! Nasty collectivists could poison your Bodily Fluids with Chlorine and probably also other nasty stuff !

        You have to trust police to do their job properly and that includes "perv" scanners. Most people have that trust in the western world.

        1. OffBeatMammal

          I'd trust a copper...

          ... but the airport security goons have no such training, no such background check, no such oversight and it scares the hell out of me that they're getting so much power over our ability to travel

  23. Martin H Watson

    So it says...

    "... images from the scanners are 'automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer"

    So this infers that if someone successfully smuggles 'something' through, we'll have no record of how they did it. Great.

  24. yeehaw....


    Of which the Feds have none.

    It's all in presentation, the coders for the machines could have used the data from the scans to display damn near anything they wanted, so why a "nekkid" picture? Could have been wireframe display, could have displayed a EQ toon, anything.

    It's like no one has ever seen 'Total Recall" - recall (lol) the security checkpoint where Arnie jumps through the hugeass display screen in that movie?

    You would think TSA would ask DARPA for god's sake!

    In other news....

    If Obama and Napolitano would take their families through the no longer enhanced but a 'resolution' pat down and then the backscatter imaging machine with the smiling camera crew, I'll be cool about it.

    Thinking about it, I couldn't stand by and watch my wife and kids go through that. Betcha Obama would lose more respect in the world than he already has if he stood by. Pretty sure Michelle would come unglued before Barry.

  25. Michael C


    so a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MODEL of a "similar" system can save images, and that means it would be "trivial" for a TSA person to do the same???

    Wow, so glad I stopped reading Giz. This is just another poor article from them. They're getting as bad as Fox News.

    Look, the system settings on the TSA units hard block the device from storing images. They click a button on screen or on a keyboard which turns a light green or red in the screening area (no where near where they are), and the image is DELETED. Only in a special diagnostic mode, requiring a special log-in, can save images. TSA managers (and other personnel that audit the TSA), check to make sure this is on the up-n-up ,as a real leak would be a HUGE PR NIGHTMARE. It is in every interest they absolutely ensure images are not being kept. They go further to do psychological screenings on the people using these machines.

    As for the radiation. It is complete BS and FUD that we "don;t understand the health impacts." it;s x-ray radiation. It matters not if it;s "backscatter" or "penetrating" or "realtime" or whatever. Rads are Rads are Rads. All that matters is exposure level. The exposure level of a back scatter scan is so low that you actually are exposed to more ionizing radiation just sitting in the seat on a plane, or lounging on a beach or in your back yard than you get from this scan. The radiation is in fact LESS than the "leaked" radiation from the baggage scanner that TSA agents have been standing next to for DECADES without any reported health issues. Clearly if there was a health issue, TSA agents would be mutating on a daily basis and dying of cancer in droves. There is no such correlation.

    We know damned well the effects of x-Rays. All that matter is the rads. Backscatter is an extremely low yield system not intending to get clear images of your innards, but simply measure density of objects on the outside of your skin. It is a very simlpe, and very low resolution imaging system.

    Here's some numbers for you. 1 hour of flight at a typical 30,000 feet gives you about 0.5 mrems of radiation. (the higher you get, the less atmosphere filtering cosmic rays) Just being on the ground, you get about 30-50 mrems per year (combination of cosmic and ground based radiation sources). You get about 20 more mrem a year just from eating, since nearly everything you can eat contains carbon 14. The average person is exposed to about 360 mrem a year. Your chance of getting cancer goes up about 10% if you are exposed to 250,000 mrem, total accumulated over your life (mrems are cumulative over time).

    That's 3,000 mrem a year for 80 years to have a 10% increased chance of getting cancer, 10 TIMES the normal dosage you;de get in a year. Now, how hard is it to get excess radiation??? A full chest xray series is about 6 mrem. SIX. Getting an arm or leg scanned is about 1 mrem. You'de need dozens of full body x-rays per year to get even a notable increase, in fact you;de need dozen of CAT SCANS (about 200mrem each) to approch this point.

    A backscatter scan in the units the TSA is using is 0.02mrem, and that includes not just the scan, but scattered radiation you may be exposed to standing in line waiting for the machine to scan you. 2% of the dose you get having your arm scanned. 2% of a daily exposure to the earth itself. Less radiation than you get from a TYPICAL MEAL! This is INSIGNIFICANT compared to the 1 mrem you'll likely get on the plane and the additional 1 mrem you'll get for the rest of that day simply spent living on the ground. Yes, this scan is 1:1,000 of the amount of radiation you'll get this day, and less than a quarter of a billionth of what it would take to raise your cancer risk by just 10%.

    ANY speculation on the safety risks of these devices is compete and utter bullshit. Radiation has been extensively studied since the 1930s. x-rays are very well understood. Just because an explicit study was not done on these machines specifically by multiple governments and independent auditors has no impact on whether or not they're safe. They emit a given amount of radiation, this is a fact. The safety level of that exposure is a known fact. We don;t have to test them anymore than to put a meter in the field, confirm it, and slap a sticker on it, same as is done for any class 1 laser device (like the one in your BR player, which in fact, emits more radiation than this thing does, just in a very different spectrum).

    1. OffBeatMammal

      someone protesting a little loudly

      reads like a DHS/TSA press flack.

      just to balance your view ... have a read of


      then decide if you want to put up with this crap

      1. Mike Powers

        Global Warming?

        You sound like someone spouting links to "scientific proof" that AGW is real, and accusing "deniers" of being plants or shills.

    2. teebie

      Oh dear

      re: trivial. Taking a cameraphone picture of something you see is trivial.

      re: radiation risks. The figures you are quoting come from the manufacturers/marketers of the machines, who are proven liars, so there is no reason we should believe them.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Liar, Liar

    We don't need the machine to see that your pants are on fire.

  27. Tempest

    Wanted: Dedicated protesters to refuse scanning

    You cam imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone demanded a hand-job.

    Go to your doctor, get a note that says: "Sensitive to high frequency radio energy (X-rays)"; proceed to airport and join the rest of the hand jobs checking in about 10 minutes before the gate closes.

    Captain has a choice: fly near empty losing money or miss the (departure) slot. Heathrow doesn't have enough gates to handle the resulting back ups. Of course that Irish loud mouth will chime in so attracting even more attention.

    Parties affected will be BAA, air carrier, air traffic control.

    You can bet they will soon convene a meeting to re-evaluate their high-handed decisions. MONEY talks louder than anything!

    Protest - it is your right!

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      "You cam imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone demanded a hand-job."

      Yup. The poor security operatives would all be on long term sick with RSI.

  28. Walt French

    Big scam by Gizmodo; is Reg more clueless than usual?

    These images are NOT from the scanners. You can see people in the foreground and background, far removed from the scanners.

    The images are totally smudgy, not unlike what you'd get with some infrared camera. The sort of thing that anybody could easily walk up to the TSA line with. Anybody who sees pudenda here, has a much more vivid imagination than I do. We KNOW that the TSA is getting different images out of the scanners.

    Further, the portly appearance of the subjects, plus pre-identified areas of the photos for closer inspection, suggest these were plant/test (TSA? ScanCo?) employee subjects, and the photos were used to justify the machines or train operators in noticing contraband that other detection systems miss.

    So (1) Gizmodo has no idea what scanner images actually look like, and (2) their claim that these images prove scanner images are somehow saved is utterly without merit. Scanner images certainly MAY have been saved, but if this is the best Giz/El Reg can find, you'd actually think they are either shredded or VERY carefully locked away.

  29. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    The Real Question

    The real question is:

    If those images are genuine perv scanner images then what use are the perv scanners?

    Those images are absolutely hopeless. Catch a pants bomber? They wouldn't catch a man with a .44 Magnum in his pocket. If those are genuine perv scanner images then they surely put into doubt the stories we've heard of operators commenting on subjects genitalia.

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