Backscatter Blowback

by Brian Boyko, Contributing Writer

Millimeter wave technology photo courtesy of TSA – PD-USGOV-DHS

The controversy about the new full-body x-ray security procedures is growing, leading up to the busiest travel season of the year.

Currently at many, but not all, U.S. airports, backscatter X-ray machines (or millimeter wave-based machines) are installed and in use.  These full-body scanners essentially take naked photographs of the subject.

The alternative to the full-body scan, if you choose to opt-out, is an invasive frisking or “enhanced pat-down.” This will involve, to be blunt, a TSA officer of the same sex touching all parts of the body, including the genital area.

Pilots and passengers may opt not to fly, and even the pilot’s unions are telling members to avoid the full-body scan. While this may disrupt travel through the holidays, TSA has decided it will exempt U.S. airline pilots from physical screenings at airport security checkpoints next year, according to a Bloomberg Television interview today with TSA administrator John Pistole. Starting in 2011, pilots will be able to move through checkpoints with proof of their identity.

Certainly this is an unpleasant prospect for many travelers, and many may choose to opt out of flights at the very last minute, rather than go through either procedure. Some people have already purposely missed flights to make an issue out of the matter. One person, John Tyner, even recorded his experience with the TSA on video and, in fact, after refusing to go through either procedure, opted not to fly. The TSA has threatened him with a civil suit and fines up to $10,000.

For any company that offers video conferencing solutions, one of the greatest value arguments has always been: “You don’t have to fly.”  Granted, that argument has generally centered on saving the cost of airline tickets, as well as the time it takes to travel, but now there’s another reason why “you don’t have to fly” is becoming a compelling value message.

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