Feeds

US airport body scanners can store and export images

Uproar likely over threat of blurry customs pr0n

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Full body scanners at US airports can transmit digital strip search images of people, contrary to US Transportation Security Authority assurances.

The TSA has maintained that such scanners cannot store or transmit scanned body images of people, stating that "the machines have zero storage capability."

A TSA release stated that any scanned full body image "won't be stored, transmitted or printed, and [will be] deleted immediately once viewed." This is wrong too.

But according to documents obtained under freedom of information laws by EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), they do indeed have a storage capability.

According to the TSA procurement specification, v1.02, 23 September 2008, the scanner, termed a Whole Body Imager (WBI) will have "a high capacity read/write drive... to permit data uploads and downloads." It will also "provide capabilities for data transfers via USB devices" and support both Ethernet and TCP/IP. Field reporting data for up to a year will be stored on the hard drive.

The procurement spec specifies two operating modes. In screening mode the WBI system will "prohibit the storage and exporting of passenger images."

However, "when not being used for normal screening operations, the capability to capture images of non-passengers for training and evaluation purposes is needed" and this is provided in test mode. In screening mode, the system will be prohibited from exporting passenger image data. The spec states: "During Test Mode, the WBI shall not be capable of conducting passenger screening."

Therein lies the rub. The system does not know a passenger from a non-passenger - both are simply humans inside the system's scanning field. The spec does not state how the system is switched between modes.

Another document obtained by EPIC says one system, identified by the government, can record images for training purposes. This capability is configurable at a superuser level and will be disabled in operational systems.

So that leaves us with full body scanners that can capture strip search scanned images of people when in test mode and export them either by USB or TCP/IP transfers (which are subject to certain security restrictions), and at least one system that can store scanned images.

That leaves privacy campaigners salivating at the mouth with the possibilities for information abuse, and the TSA with much egg on its face for issuing misleading statements. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.