You might remember a while back that there was a huge kerfluffle over the fact that the TSA was installing “backscatter” scanners. Well, they’ll be leaving airports soon. Because of the controversy over the fact that blasting people with ionizing radiation is perhaps just a wee bit riskier than the TSA pretended? Because of the question of whether these devices really made us safer?
Nah. It’s because the TSA was sick of looking at how ugly we were naked.
Essentially, the government couldn’t figure out a way to deliver software that would protect the modesty of those being scanned, so it’s instead switching to millimeter-wave scanners:
At this point, all Millimeter wave units have been equipped with ATR [Automated Target Recognition, basically gun-spotting without the boob-spotting], but even with the extension to 2013, Rapiscan was unable to fulfill their end of the contract and create the ATR software that would work with backscatter units. As a result, TSA terminated the contract with Rapiscan in order to comply with the congressional mandate.
This is actually a good thing in a few respects. First of all, no more shots of your nether regions will be available for TSA types to ogle. Secondly, it was just a bit up in the air how dangerous these things actually were, with a lot of argument over whether or not the TSA was properly representing the risks of being zapped by a $16-a-hour glorified rent-a-cop with potentially dangerous radiation.
The congressional mandate was probably about protecting the modesty of Americans, but if it winds up meaning less cancer, we’re pretty OK with that.