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Entries in millimeter wave technology (6)


Europe to Ban Full-body X-ray Scans at Airports

Can you feel the heat, TSA?

After Europe announced that it is banning airport “strip-search” X-rays over health concerns, calls for the TSA to follow suit have gained even more strength, the Daily Mail reports.

Officials from the European Union fear that the X-ray scanners, which emit low-radiation doses, could cause cancer in air passengers. And with millions of people going through the scanners every year, the health risks are a serious consideration. In fact, research shows that up to 100 U.S. passengers could get cancer from the scanners every year.

Although TSA has been especially enthusiastic about the advanced scanners, fears about the health risks they pose were raised as far back as 1998. Then, a panel of radiation safety experts “expressed concerns about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle that humans should not be X-rayed unless there is a medical purpose.”

But TSA has always maintained that the scanners are safe and, in terms of radiation exposure, equivalent to about two minutes of flight time. Besides, the group says, the scanners detect security threats that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Around 250 X-ray scanners and 264-milimeter-wave scanners are currently used in America’s airports, according to ProPublica.


DHS Signs Contracts for Covert Mobile Body Scanners 

An image created by a Z Backscatter Van scan

The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained documents Tuesday that suggest the Department of Homeland Security is seeking mobile and static scanning technology that will be used on people without their knowledge or consent. 

InHardFocus reported in August 2010 that companies like American Science & Engineering were already taking advanced scanning technology mobile. But the EPIC news indicates that DHS will soon make use of these mobile, covert scanners. 

DHS states that the technology will help officials quickly detect concealed explosives, which will ensure the safety of individuals in urban and transportation hubs. 

One contract calls for AS&E's Z Backscatter Van to be used as part of an Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance platform, which can be used anywhere.

Another requests a walk-through x-ray device that could be used at the entrance to special events and other points of interest. 

The technology used in these types of mobile and static screening systems is similar (and, in some case, may be identical) to that used at airport security checkpoints, which includes backscatter and millimeter-wave technology. 

Of course, EPIC is already warming up for war over these contracts. Computer World reported that an EPIC spokeswomen said using these technologies to scan people without their consent is an invasion of privacy and a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Not to mention the possible safety risks that come from repeated exposure to these advanced scanning technologies (a subject on which TSA is still mum). 

So far, it's unclear whether the DHS contracts have been completed. 


TSA Continues to Delay Release of Body-scanner Safety Reports

More than 15 million passengers were scanned by TSA's advanced imaging technology between October 2009 and September 2010. And, as we all know, the frequency of scans has increased significantly since then. Yet, TSA officials still refuse to release radiation inspection reports that detail the safety of its X-ray equipment.

U.S. lawmakers requested this information more than two months ago following an investigation by USA Today, the newspaper reports. TSA is hesitant to release the data before ensuring that they don't reveal any "sensitive security or privacy-protected information," a spokesman said. 

As InHardFocus has reported, the safety of TSA's full-body scans has long been called into question by various groups. TSA has maintained that the amount of radiation in one full-body scan is equivalent to about two minutes of flight time. However, legislators--and the public--still have no official information on the reliability, long-term effects, safety and security of these machines. 

Much of the concern over TSA's technology is based on precedent. In 2008, a report by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that TSA and its contractors had failed to detect when luggage X-ray machines were giving off excessive levels of radiation or had missing or disabled safety features, according to USA Today. Today, TSA is sending humans through X-ray machines--with little or no assurance of safety.

Although TSA has taken a few baby steps to reassure passengers that their privacy is protected, the question of safety still looms large. Until TSA releases the radiation inspection reports, passengers must ensure their safety on their own. 

Privates privacy-enhanced clothing uses a specialized mix of metals and other materials, and are printed with a unique "interference" pattern. Not only do Privates boxers and T-shirts protect your privacy; the unique application of metals help protect your body from additional radiation exposure. 

Sign up to become a Privates Test-Pilot today--and show TSA what you really think.


'Tiered' Security: The Solution TSA Has Been Waiting For?


Finally, America might be on the verge of an airport security screening procedure that works--and makes sense.

The New York Times reported today that two transportation associations are hard at work developing a new strategy for U.S. airport security: one that does not involve the possibility of advanced imaging technology or enhanced TSA pat-downs for all passengers. 

Both the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Travel Association support a "tiered" approach, in which travelers are divided into three groups--trusted, regular and risky--and screened accordingly.

Step one? Create a "trusted traveler program" that would pre-screen passengers and allow them to bypass lengthy security queues. Such a set-up might be similar to the now-defunct CLEAR Program, which enabled paying members to avoid continual re-screening by providing extensive personal data to TSA. 

In a similar program, called Global Entry, members pay a $100 annual fee and submit to an interview, background check and fingerprint scan before earning the privilege of clearing Customs through a kiosk, rather than by speaking to an agent.

Step two would involve identifying the risky passengers. Luckily, in the wake of 9/11, many of the riskiest U.S. passengers have already been identified. And this information can be continually updated based on data gathered by the government and airlines. 

As the Times article points out: 

“Today we have TSA agents looking at TV screens, but they don’t know anything about the person going through the system,” said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. “The idea is to take data that the government and the airlines are already collecting about passengers and bring it to the checkpoint.”

Passengers in the risky group would be subject to advanced screening techniques, which may include millimeter-wave and backscatter imaging technology and physical pat-downs. 

The regular passengers--those who are not deemed risky but haven't opted into the trusted traveler program--would, presumably, still have to go through metal detectors and get their carry-ons screened. However, wait times should be lessened, since many of the passengers who, in the past, have held up the line would be in the risky group. 

While this might not be an ideal solution to the question of airport security--What happens if your name accidentally ends up on the "risky" list? How easily could terrorists take advantage of the trusted traveler program?--it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction. Here's hoping TSA pays attention. 


Love New Tech? Sign Up for 'Privates' Test-Pilot Program!

Enthusiastic early adopters love being on the cutting-edge of new technology trends. And Privates is a tech trend unlike any other. 

A joint venture between In Hard Focus and Betabrand, a San Francisco-based clothing innovator, Privates is a line of privacy-enhanced travel clothing that protects your privacy from the Transportation Security Administration's advanced imaging technology. 

Privates boxers and T-shirts are ideal for any modest traveler -- and for those citizens who are simply fed up with TSA's "choices" between the virtual strip search and the enhanced pat-down. Because for many travelers, it's the principle of the thing. And Privates is the ideal way to show TSA exactly how you feel.

“People are afraid of airport scanners for good reason,” said Steve Russell, security and privacy expert and the designer of Privates. “Who wants TSA employees looking at, and possibly keeping records or scans of, your naked body, like what happened recently at a Florida federal courthouse? But ‘opting out’ is even worse. Enhanced pat downs are uncomfortable, awkward and can border on molestation.”

Privates clothing is treated with a specialized mix of metallic inks and other materials, and printed with a unique “interference” pattern. The result blocks airport body scanners but will not trigger a metal detector or prompt an enhanced pat-down by TSA operators.

“The secret is in the optimized application of scanner-blocking materials,” Russell explained. “While the pattern and materials are more than enough to obscure and protect your ‘privates’ from prying eyes, they won’t show up with the intensity or structure of a hidden object—something that would get a traveler pulled out of line.”

Intrepid passengers can join the Privates Alpha Group to become one of 50 test-pilots. They’ll receive a special prototype pair of Privates Underwear to test-pilot, plus two pairs of production underwear when Privates takes flight. Best of all, they’ll get the fame and satisfaction that comes with test-piloting an important product into existence. Privates will be available generally in early 2011. 

Here's your chance to be at the forefront of an amazing technology and security trend. Sign up now to become a Privates Test-Pilot on the Betabrand website!