The balance between providing security against threats and protecting our liberty has been fired up again with the airport body scanner issues raised in the first part of this year. In this article, we take a look at the two types of body scanners that are usually employed by security personnel.
Security versus personal privacy. Personal liberty versus safety. Which should win out in modern society? There are proponents of each side and they often change positions depending on the specific facts being discussed! As technology continually evolves, the subject is only going to grow more controversial and more heated. Airport body scanners are just the latest hot topic.
The millimeter wave scanner is deployed in the airports of many countries for the purpose of performing body scans on travelers. The device comes with two antennas that shoot an extremely high frequency radio wave between the two. The passenger stands in the middle and will often turn a full circle. The waves penetrate clothing, but not the body or hard items which are reflected. The reflected waves then are used to create a 3D version of the passenger on which any hidden items will be revealed. It is somewhat similar to what you see when luggage is put through a scanner.
Backscatter scanners work in a similar manner. The difference is x-rays are shot into the body to create the image. This in an improvement over the millimeter wave scanner in that it will also show organic materials in addition to the normal body. On the downside, the image is only shown in two dimensions and the idea of bombarding the body with x-rays raises health issues. Recent studies have shown that the overuse of scanning in the medical community through the use of x-rays, MRIs and CT scans may be a health issue.
So, what do these scanners actually show the security personnel? Well, the answer is everything-and I mean everything. The images can hardly be called titillating, but there is no doubt that a traveler can have absolutely no expectation of privacy when being scanned. Whether society is ready to accept this level of government control is a question for another article.
Thomas Ajava writes about GPS personal security systems and other security topics for SecuritySystemStop.com.