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New technology will enhance privacy on body scanners, TSA says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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New TSA body scan less invasive
  • Instead of seeing an image of the passenger, the screeners will see a generic outline
  • The new technology will protect privacy but maintain security, the TSA says
  • Nearly 500 body imaging machines are used in 78 U.S. airports

Washington (CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration is taking steps beginning Wednesday to eliminate the actual image of passengers in body scanners at airports, replacing them with a generic outline of a person.

The new software on its millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging Technology machines is designed to enhance privacy but maintain security standards.

It "will auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person for all passengers," according to a statement from the TSA.

"If no potential threats are detected, an 'OK' appears on the monitor with no outline, and the passenger is cleared," the statement said.

TSA Administrator John Pistole said the new software is "something we've been working on for quite a while and we're now to the point where, having done lab testing, we are ready to deploy."

The software is similar to the previous software in terms of detection capability, Pistole said, but it addresses the privacy concerns that had been raised about screeners seeing details of passengers' bodies.

The combination of the imaging technology with the new software "provides us with the best possible security with the best possible privacy," he said.

Passengers will be able to view the same outline a TSA officer sees, and it will no longer be necessary for a separate TSA officer to view the image in a remotely located viewing room.

Currently, there are nearly 500 imaging technology units at 78 airports in the United States and more units will be deployed this year, the TSA said. Some of the units use the millimeter-wave technology, while others use "backscatter" technology.