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TSA Announces Major Privacy Changes to Controversial 'Nude' Body Scanners

...protect travelers' privacy rights while securing commercial air travel.

After months of debate and controversy, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), is making major changes to its privacy policies. The federal agency says it's installing new technology in some U.S. airports so when a traveler goes through checkpoint security, a generic outline of a person will be shown instead of the image of a naked body.

The agency says the change is intended to protect travelers' privacy rights while securing commercial air travel -- a balancing act that has been tough thus far. Across the nation, TSA has received scrutiny over the use of advanced image technology (AIT), which has exposed travelers to "nude scanners." Wired has more about the controversy that has been brewing for some time now:

First tested in 2007, the AIT scanners became the object of intense media and public scrutiny around Thanksgiving. In addition to privacy concerns, some experts maintained the scanners’ safety was unproven, and that the technology was ineffective in detecting smuggled weapons and explosives. Travelers are permitted to opt-out of the scan, but are then subjected to an aggressive pat-down procedure.

The new, less intrusive technology will be used in 40 airports, including in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Newark. Similar to the AIT, but much less intrusive, the new software is designed to recognize items on the passenger that could pose a security threat. The TSA explains the benefits and changes that will come as a result of utilizing this new technology:

As with the current version of AIT, the areas identified as containing potential threats will require additional screening. The generic outline will be identical for all passengers. If no potential threat items are detected, an "OK" will appear on the monitor with no outline. By eliminating the passenger-specific image associated with the current version of AIT, a separate TSA officer will no longer be required to view the image in a remotely-located viewing room.

Later this year, the TSA will also roll out an expedited security program for frequent fliers. This upcoming initiative is intended to individualize security rather than relying on only uniform, blanket policies to secure American airports.

Interestingly, this change in body scanner technology has been announced at the same time that the TSA has been victorious in a U.S. appeals court case surrounding the use of its controversial scanners. The agency plans to eventually use this technology for more machines at more airports. Due to the lack of nudity inherent in these scanners, it is likely that people will be more comfortable and less opposed to their use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(h/t Wired)

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