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Congress

TSA Tests New Technology For Airport Body Scanners

February 1, 2011

The U.S. government Tuesday began testing new airport screening technology that does not generate an image of a person's body, in an effort to address concerns raised by privacy and civil liberties organizations, National Journal reported.

The use of whole-body scanning machines at airports has been controversial largely because the machines create an image of a person's body without clothes. The Transportation Security Administration has said the machines give airport screeners the best chance of finding hidden objects on travelers.

But TSA is now testing new software that will only generate a generic outline of a person. Threatening items will be marked on the outline.

"We are always looking for new technology and procedures that will both enhance security while strengthening privacy protections," TSA Administrator John Pistole said. "Testing this new software will help us confirm test results that indicate it can provide the same high level of security as current advanced imaging technology units while further enhancing the privacy protections already in place." Click here to read more.

Updated: 4:23 pm EST:
One of the strongest critics of the TSA's scanner program, Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg, dismissed the agency's latest moves to address concerns about the scanners.

"It's not for the TSA to decide whether the TSA has done enough to protect privacy," Rotenberg said. "There has to be an independent evaluation and that is what the TSA
has opposed."

Rotenberg's group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the TSA seeking documents about the agency's latest screening technology. He said since the TSA has yet to respond to this request, EPIC plans to file a lawsuit this week to compel the agency to turn over the documents.

Meanwhile, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee called on TSA Tuesday to conduct an updated assessment of the new system's impact on privacy and civil liberties.

"While I commend TSA for its continuing effort to improve our aviation security, we must also continue to protect the privacy of the flying public," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement.

Juliana Gruenwald contributed to this story.

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