Backscatter technology reveals hidden non-metalic weapons
Phoenix Sky Harbor first to deploy controversial scanner

Frequent flying passengers may start to find themselves searched not by metal detectors but by electronic eyes that see through clothes. Thanks to a technology called backscatter, passengers walk through an x-ray type machine that is sensitive to peer through clothing but not through skin, making the image appear as though only clothes have been removed. The first airport to deploy the technology will be Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Originally, the controversial technology was deemed to be too invading allowing security officials to see through people's clothes without appropriate consent. However, the Transportation Security Administration said that it has since modified the technology so that certain areas of the body are blurred. The technology displayed such a clear image of a person's body previously. Privacy concerns remain high but the TSA assures that privacy will be maintained. Only an authorized security official will be operating the scanner and only from a remote location for example. This prevents the person operating the scanner from being able to see what the passenger looks like in person and possibly causing a problem. Pictures scanned by the new x-ray machine will not be available to those around it and only to the main operator.

The plan is to launch the new x-ray device in more airports across the U.S. Some airports in Europe have already deployed the new x-rays and the technology is being used in high security areas such as prisons. The main need for the new machine is to help detect non-solid explosives and chemicals that would otherwise escape traditional scanner.

More airports are to deploy the new x-ray scanners in early 2007. Interestingly, passengers will have a choice of either passing through the scanner or use the traditional pat-down method. Passengers who fail the first phase of scanning however, will be automatically subjected to the new x-ray.

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