A few weeks ago when returning from a cruise, I flew out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). In the security screening area, I was asked to step into a Rapiscan full body scanner and raise my arms. The whole process took about 15 seconds, and then I was on my way. I hardly gave it a second thought, and the TSA personnel were friendly, yet professional.
In the last couple of weeks, it seems that people are getting more and more emotional about these scanners. This is somewhat surprising to me for several reasons:
1. The implementation of full body scans for aviation security has been discussed for several years.
2. It is generally accepted that the radiation exposure is quite minimal (and typically much less than the background radiation exposure experienced on an airplane flight). The technology has existed, and been subject to review, for about 18 years.
3. Privacy concerns are mitigated with a number of approaches. The person monitoring the images from the scan are physically separated from the screening area (they see the image, but not the actual person). A privacy algorithm is used to blur the image. Images cannot be stored, transmitted or printed in an airport environment.
4. If, for some reason, a person objects to being scanned, they can "Opt Out" and have an enhanced pat-down (either in public or private). Personally, I don't like strangers touching me, so I will always select the body scan.
In the middle of November 2010, John Tyner, a passenger at San Diego International Airport, video recorded his refusal to be scanned and his discomfort at being patted-down. His "If you touch my junk I am going to have you arrested." went viral. The videos are available on John's blog.
November 24, 2010 has been declared "National Opt-Out Day", a movement which encourages travellers to decline being scanned and instead accept the pat-down. Since this is the day before US Thanksgiving Day, and one of the busiest air travel days of the year, this protest could become quite disruptive if many people choose to participate.
I would encourage people to consider that the TSA screeners are just doing their job, and treat them with the respect that you would want if you were in their position. The full body scans are not a big deal, and they are not as invasive as a pat-down.