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Travel Tip: No More Backscatter Scanners

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Remember all the outrage when the TSA began using full-body scanners at the airport?  Well, now they’re quietly pulling the plug. Here’s the story behind the story:

Full-body scanners became big news in 2010, after the failed underwear bombing attempt on Christmas Day.  Beyond privacy concerns, the big story was that the backscatter technology uses small doses of ionizing radiation to create a full-body image.

In reality, you get more radiation from actually flying on the plane, but there is a legitimate concern over cumulative radiation. Even pilots were refusing to go through the scanners.

The company producing backscatter machines was contracted to make 500 scanners. So far, there are 174 machines in 30 airports.

Over the next few months, those scanners will include Automated Target Recognition software, which means no more full-body images—it will be a generic outline instead.

Going forward, the TSA will deploy the old millimeter-wave scanners, which use radio waves to detect potential threats. And remember, if you do encounter a backscatter scanner, you still have the choice to opt out and get a pat down instead.

For more information, visit the Airport archives.

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