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U.S. Airports May Soon Test Body Scanner With Privacy Upgrades

Full-body airport scanners will show this cartoon-type figure every time a person steps into one of its machines Source: Rapiscan Systems via Bloomberg
Full-body airport scanners will show this cartoon-type figure every time a person steps into one of its machines Source: Rapiscan Systems via Bloomberg

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. airport full-body scanners that show a generic figure rather than actual images of passenger body parts may be deployed to some airports for tests this year, the transportation security chief said today.

John Pistole, who leads the Transportation Security Administration, said he reviewed testing of the upgraded machines yesterday and progress is being made. The agency may make decisions on further deployments based on the results of live testing in airports this year, he said in an interview.

L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan, which make the scanners for U.S. airports, delivered software upgrades to the agency last year that display an avatar and a box alerting authorities to potential threats. The scanners would eliminate the need for the agency to keep an employee in a remote room viewing images of passengers.

Full deployment of the upgraded machines would “completely address the privacy, the modesty issue” that has sparked complaints about the current devices, he said in a speech to a law group today in Washington.

The agency is accelerating use of the scanners after the U.S. said Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on approach to Detroit Dec. 25, 2009, by igniting explosives in his underpants. The 1,000 scanners due at airports by the end of this year will put them at more than half the security lanes at major U.S. airports.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hughes in Washington at Jhughes5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net.

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