The Barr Code
Friday, January 15th, 2010
The federal government is hell-bent on installing full-body x-ray scanners in airports across the country in the wake of the failed, Christmas Day bomb attempt by the Nigerian Brainiac. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has directed that the government will spend tens of millions of our dollars to purchase and install the fancy-dandy, but largely un-proven, ”back-scatter” machines as quickly as possible. In an effort to quell serious privacy concerns that have been raised about the graphic images the devices create, the government repeatedly has assured the public that the images revealed to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees manning the consoles, cannot be retained or transmitted.
Well, surprise, surprise — the government is not telling us the truth. In fact, the specifications for the manufacture of the machines mandates that they have the ability to store images on hard disk storage, and that they possess the ability to send the images. Of course, the transmission of such data creates the obvious possibility that hackers could access the data and print out or view the images. The images themselves portray people without clothes on, and include relatively clear depiction of genitalia.
The information establishing that the full-body scanners will have the ability to retain and transmit the images they capture was obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a well-known and highly-regarded public interest research center in Washington, D.C. The organization has sought additional information regarding the machines, but remains engaged in a dispute with TSA over its release.