Full-Body Scanners at Airports. Necessary for Safety or an Unnecessary Invasion of Privacy?

by | Nov 28, 2010

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend. With all the traveling over the holiday weekend, a hot topic around dinner tables has been about airport security and the use of body scanners.

This past month, Philadelphia International Airport, following the footsteps of airports around the country and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) guidelines, installed several body-scanning machines at security checkpoints in an effort to re-vamp security procedures. Passengers are given the option of using the new scanners, or old style metal detectors followed by a frisk by a security officer. These body scanning machines allow security personnel to scan passengers for dangerous materials, weapons and any other items restricted from flights. Some passengers have expressed strong dissatisfaction with these scanners claiming they violate their personal privacy by producing a detailed three-dimensional image of the passenger’s body. Concerns arise over the images because ‘private’ areas of the body are exposed in detail including the genitals and other private areas of the body.

Attorneys for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have filed a lawsuit against the TSA, claiming a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches. Airline passengers have been subjected to strict screening procedures over the past decade requiring passengers to walk through metal detectors, remove their shoes for x-ray, and when necessary full body frisks. The question arises over whether or not these new body scanners subject passengers to unreasonable searches and whether or not privacy rights are being violated.

I’d love to hear what criminal lawyers and others think about these body scanners. I remember the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections had them at some state prisons in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago, but they disappeared. Does anyone know what happened to them?

For more information on the Body Scanners, click here.
For information regarding the EPIC lawsuit, click here.

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