March 6, 2011

To Be Seen Naked or Not to Be: That is the Question

Filed under: TSA — publicandprivatespace @ 4:01 pm

By: Malynda Messer

Nudity has become a common theme on television, billboards, and magazines.  Many people are no longer shocked when they see a naked person in a movie, but rather have come to accept this as a norm.  However, most people don’t consider the feelings they would have if it were their body up on a screen.  But this is exactly what airports have begun to do with what is known as a biometric body scanner.  Biometric body scanners take a virtual picture of a passenger’s naked body in order to identify that specific person in a database and ensure they do not have weapons under their clothes. 

To most this would seem outrageous, however many people have come to expect this type of action from the government.  In an interview conducted by the Independent, many people commented on why they should even care anymore because they have seen the body sold and exploited for far less and this machine isn’t really much different.  Should people really be this complacent about their own privacy?  A clear solution to the violation of ethical standards presented by biometric body scanners would be to remove them from all airports.

There are many ethical issues surrounding these machines mostly involving passenger’s personal privacy.  The most concerning of these issues involves how graphic the images produced by the body scanners are.  The images are so graphic that genitalia and breast implants are visible on the images.  In addition to these images, saved information includes personal information such as full name, address, phone number, flight information, and sometimes social security number. 

This information can be viewed by all employees, and sent to any other database with just a click of a mouse.  Several cases, for example, have been reported of harassment and threats from an unknown source by several women.  When investigated sources of the harassment came back to airline employees.  This indicates that all this information found within airline databases is essentially unsafe, and almost anyone can gain access to personal facts.  This false safety some feel about airports can easily be a misconception.

Not only are passenger’s required to submit personal information such as address, phone number, and full name, but this information is subject to be retrieved or purchased by direct marketers or credit bureaus which can then be matched with other data and used for purposes that were not agreed to. Purposes could include being harassed by e-mails, phone calls, and mail from those creditors that are trying to hoax innocent people into something. The beauty of it all is that passengers would never guess that the creditor would find this information through an airport database so the blame will never be pinpointed but rather just brushed off as some mailing list that was accidentally signed up for. This abuse of power by airlines needs to be stopped.

An even more serious problem that has been brought to media attention recently is the violation of child protection laws. Biometric body scanners have also been called “virtual strip searches.” Should children be required to submit to such an invasive test? This concern however, has not been clarified by officials. Children should not have to be exposed to such revealing tests, but making legislation that protects children 18 and younger from the screening could open up a new opportunity window for terrorists. So for now children will be chosen at random and asked to submit to this scan for the purpose of protecting the “safety of the public” or at least, that’s the scripted answer most government officials respond with. It would seem more logical to clarify controversial issues such as this before implementing such an absurd screening.

It seems that concern for personal space and privacy has dropped tremendously. If nothing else, the fact that biometric body scanners are now affecting children should be enough to spark a boycott. It has also not been proven that these machines are truly improving security, so why should personal privacies be violated? Passenger’s should have the choice of whether or not they want to expose their most personal places especially if these images can be seen by employees and then retrieved by other people. The best solution for these rising problems is to remove biometric screenings from airports until all the current ethical issues are resolved.

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