Friday, July 16, 2010

Body Imaging at BWI

Today I'm blogging from Gate B2/B4 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI).  Tis the beginning of my vacation, when I take some time off and head back to my beloved Mitten state.  Fortunately, I was able to take much of the afternoon off from work and get to the airport with a few hours to spare.  Check-in was quick and easy, and lines for security were short...but today, I would have gladly waited an hour through security in order to avoid what was waiting for me once I got to the metal detector and x-ray machines.

Today was the first time I have ever had to go through the L3 ProVision body-imaging machine.  I chose the short line for the x-ray machine, only to realize which line I had entered.  Quickly grabbing a bin and switching to another line nearby, I unloaded my belongings into bins, hoping the TSA hadn't noticed.  I stood in front of the metal detector when a TSA agent directed me to the L3 machine.  We had a brief discussion about why I didn't want to go through and what I knew about the machine, but was ushered through anyway.  What added to the embarrassing scan is what happened after I stepped out.  I was patted down.  Really?  After one exits the L3 ProVision machine, Big Brother (or, hopefully Big Sister, in my case) lets the TSA agent know what to do next.  Subjecting me to the scan evidently didn't reveal enough of what was under my clothing, so I had to be patted down.  Absolutely ridiculous.

At first I thought the pat down was retribution for muttering a few not-so-nice words on my way into, and out of, the machine.  However, as I sat on a bench to put my shoes and belt back on, I noticed that others were being patted down as well, depending on what the TSA agent's all-powerful earpiece told him/her.  Taking a brief look at the company's website, it appears that one of the many features of this machine is that it "reduces need for time-consuming and intrusive pat-down searches."  Apparently this wasn't the case today.  The ProVision fact sheet says, "The system provides options that allow blurring of faces and other areas of the body."  (Emphasis mine)  This suggests that the system is capable of blurring the most private areas of the body, but those entering the machine cannot be certain that those options have been enabled.  To be fair, the fact sheet also says, "Images cannot be saved after security personnel review them."  If true, that would be plus one point for L3, but as far as I can see, nowhere does it say that the images cannot be printed out. 

At the end, I thought about two things: (1) I'm going to pay better attention to the security line I enter, and be more adamant that I be allowed to go through a normal x-ray machine, even to the extent of citing that I do have the right to refuse to enter the machine and (2) if I absolutely, positively, must go through the machine, Big Sister might have a not-so-nice hand gesture pop up on her screen.  Hey, I'm Catholic...not perfect. 

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