Security Roundup Friday 22 October 2010

Backscatterb Whole body imaging scanners are becoming more and more common in US airports.  Here's an interesting article that combines some commentary on the dangers and lack of effectiveness of such devices with an account of one person's experience in opting out of being so scanned.

There are two types of whole body imaging scanners.  One type uses back-scatter X-rays (see the picture at the start of this entry), and some scientists believe the TSA has miscalculated the potential danger from exposure to this radiation.  The debate isn't whether exposure to X-rays is dangerous or not, because the indisputable answer is that all X-ray radiation is harmful and best avoided, with the effects of radiation being accumulative.  Instead, the debate is over exactly how much radiation one of these machines emits and how/where it is absorbed into the body.

Suffice it to say that there are reasonable grounds for valid doubt about the safety of these machines, and I will always opt out of being scanned by one.  If you travel more than very infrequently, you should too.

The other type of scanner uses millimeter radio waves.  The effects of millimeter radiation are not yet known, but they are probably less severe than the effects of X-rays.  These millimeter radio waves are extremely high frequency (between 30 – 300 GHz; by comparison cell phones work in the range of 0.8 – 2.2 GHz, Wi-Fi and microwave ovens work in the range of 2.4 GHz) and generally, the higher the frequency, the higher the energy of the radio waves.

I'll probably accept being irradiated by the millimeter radio wave based scanners, depending on just how unpleasant hand searches prove to be.

If encountering a whole body imaging device, ask the security screeners 'which type of technology does this scanner use?' (without naming the technologies).  If you don't get a clear answer that includes the phrase 'backscatter X-rays' or 'millimeter radio waves' you should assume the worst and utter the formal phrase 'I opt out' and insist on your right to be hand searched instead.

Here's some more about these new devices.

Talking about opting out, here's the story of a pilot who opted out in a very big way.  It is easy to understand his perspective – there he is, about to be placed in charge of an airplane and its passengers; to say nothing of its fire axe, and possibly he is even an armed pilot with a firearm, but he is still intrusively searched every time he goes through security.  How crazy is that?

 

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top

Free Weekly Emailed Newsletter

Usually weekly, since 2001, we publish a roundup of travel and travel related technology developments, and often a feature article too.

You’ll stay up to date with the latest and greatest (and cautioned about the worst) developments.  You’ll get information to help you choose and become a better informed traveler and consumer, how to best use new technologies, and at times, will learn of things that might entertain, amuse, annoy or even outrage you.

We’re very politically incorrect and love to point out the unrebutted hypocrisies and unfairnesses out there.

This is all entirely free (but you’re welcome to voluntarily contribute!), and should you wish to, easy to cancel.

We’re not about to spam you any which way and as you can see, we don’t ask for any information except your email address and how often you want to receive our newsletters.

Newsletter Signup - Welcome!

Thanks for choosing to receive our newsletters.  We hope you’ll enjoy them and become a long-term reader, and maybe on occasion, add comments and thoughts of your own to the newsletters and articles we publish.

We’ll send you a confirmation email some time in the next few days to confirm your email address, and when you reply to that, you’ll then be on the list.

All the very best for now, and welcome to the growing “Travel Insider family”.






David.