Backscatter Millimeter Wave Naked Scanners Confused By Folds In Clothing

from the feel-safer? dept

We’re still waiting for anyone at the TSA to explain what they’ve caught with the naked backscatter millimeter wave scanners, but the more people look into these devices the worse they look in terms of actually providing security. Glyn Moody points us to a story in Europe, where the same machines are being tested, tests have shown that the machines regularly malfunction and a big problem is that it has trouble comprehending folds in peoples’ clothing. Yes, that’s right. It might be a bomb… or it might just be your pleated pants. In other words, rather than being an either/or situation, there seems like a half decent chance that you’ll both have a naked scan and then get groped, just because you wore something with folded fabric. Updated: to reflect that this is the millimeter wave scanners, not the backscatter ones, though the two are similar overall.

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Comments on “Backscatter Millimeter Wave Naked Scanners Confused By Folds In Clothing”

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Mike C. (profile) says:

Millimeter wave, not backscatter

Reading comprehension 101:

The scanners use millimetre-wave technology to produce outline images of bodies, with each scan lasting less than three seconds.

The millimeter wave scanners are a different technology than the x-ray backscatter. I hate both technologies and feel that they should have a very limited role at best in our airports. However, if you’re going to complain, you kinda need to get the complaint right.

Jake says:

This is why George Orwell was not the uncannily insightful prophet some people make him out to be.

You see, overseeing the implementation of ever more numerous and ridiculous knee-jerk reactions to a perceived threat that’s been blown far out of proportion in a manner that would actually catch one or two of these fuckwits before their half-baked schemes end in embarrassing failure requires a certain amount of intelligence, wisdom and foresight.
However, anyone with enough intelligence, wisdom and foresight to make said restrictions work will eventually recognise them for the waste of effort and tax dollars that they patently are, and find another job. Eventually, the only people left to sort out the details of making them work are the stupid and the insane.

someone (profile) says:

Low dose of radiation.....

The TSA says that the dose of radiation is low, no big deal.

Go read about the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine that was designed to SAVE lives but instead took them:

Then imagine how many people could be hurt from a malfunctioning full body scanner in a single day.

I sure hope these are not connected to a network of any kind, imagine terrorist hackers who modify the firmware to increase the radiation levels.

I’m sure someone will point out that there are likely safeguards to prevent such problems. To that I’ll point out that the unsinkable Titanic, sank.

Qyiet (profile) says:

Re: Low dose of radiation.....

imagine terrorist hackers who modify the firmware to increase the radiation levels

Wow.. that’s a fantastic level of evil. Didn’t they say all the images are reviewed remotely? Meaning it’s plugged into a network. Forget intercepting drone surveillance, Osama Bin Laden can now kill Americans without leaving Afghanistan. Thanks TSA

BuzzCoastin (profile) says:

Re: Low dose of radiation.....

Well that’s a bit hyperbolic, there is no way that machine could crank up to several million electron volts. I doubt it can crank higher than your average microwave oven.

Nonetheless, having sold machines like the Therac 25, I am sure that profits and pocket stuffing were a more important consideration than was public safety was in the implementation of this technology.

You can be sure that members of Congress will not be scanned. You can be sure that former government officials will profit from this program.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cars can drive themselves. Why not Airplanes?

I am still convinced that American Security Theater would end if we just don’t let people buy one-way tickets the same day they fly with cash.

Secondly, are humans really needed to fly planes anymore? Why don’t we just replace pilots with robust drone software? Consider bolting the cockpit door closed; which can only be disarmed and opened remotely.

Google, I just identified your next project.

kyle clements (profile) says:

Re: Cars can drive themselves. Why not Airplanes?

“I am still convinced that American Security Theater would end if we just don’t let people buy one-way tickets the same day they fly with cash.”

One more qualifier that might be good to add: check to see if they have life insurance.

Suicide means no payout, so a suicide bomber probably doesn’t have life insurance. So don’t let people without life insurance buy same-day one-way tickets for cash.

Problem solved.
You can close down the TSA now.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cars can drive themselves. Why not Airplanes?

“Suicide means no payout, so a suicide bomber probably doesn’t have life insurance. So don’t let people without life insurance buy same-day one-way tickets for cash. “

Sorry… I was an insurance agent for a life company. need to correct a small point to this: Suicide within the first two years = no payout. After those two years, it’ll pay.

darryl says:

If its passive, there is no problem with safety..

The system?s passive Radiometric Scanner can detect concealed objects by distinguishing between the millimeter wave energy naturally emitted by the human body and the energy of the concealed objects even when they?re hidden beneath clothing. It accomplishes this without radiating subjects. Deployed as an stand-off application it will not cause claustrophobia and is a safe and discrete screening solution. Further, the WaveScan 200 millimeter wave sensors do not image anatomical details, thus protecting privacy.
Rapiscan Systems? Graphical User Interface (GUI) is an easy to understand tool – operators can identify hidden objects without confusion or delay. With training, a WaveScan 200 user can identify and locate hidden objects in realtime by observing event icons and detection boxes on a fullmotion video images. Each event?s video and passive millimeter wave images are digitally archived for later review, analysis, or evidentiary use. The JPEG images stored are millimeter wave images with no anatomical detail, thereby addressing privacy concerns.”

Note that it is a PASSIVE system, there is no antenna, or radio or x-ray source, AT ALL.. no ionising or non ionising radiation at all..

Its just a video camera that sees at EHF extra high frequencies, and what it is looking at is your own bodies natural radiation at those frequencies, as you are alive and hot you radiate energy..

But if you have a lump of ‘stuff’ strapped to you, that will absord your natural radiation then that can be detected.

So there is no safety worry about being x-rayed constantly, so all you are complaining about is having a picture of you taken with see through clothes.. live with it.. I will.

I would refuse an x-ray scan, because its bad for my health, but this is nothing.. let em have their toys.. and cheap thrills..

Its a sure sign you lost that war on terror you had once upon a time..

Josef Anvil (profile) says:


The new scanners and most of the new security since 9/11 is just a waste of time and money. Good on the TSA for employing a ton of people, as that is about the only benefit from this mess.

Now will someone in Congress please please please wake the hell up and realize how many more murders are committed in the the US by US citizens vs the amount of casualties caused by terrorism against the US in the past 10 years.

In other words, the police are not allowed to violate our civil rights to “make us safer”. The TSA is just setting a trend that may expand if its accepted without a fight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cars can drive themselves. Why not Airplanes?

@Gabriel Tane

This is why I don’t agree with this supposed “Security” industry. Just because someone’s hypothetical ideas are captured and turned into analysis, in has the ability to become a threat even if it’s never demonstrated in real life.

This same procedural sequence and requirements to be a supposed security expert are the same needed to be a “Creative Director” at an advertising agency or scriptwriter. It’s like producing a movie. Much like when a movie hits the theaters, only when the solution is launched, are all the datapoints captured and the risk is quantified.

What happened on 9/11 was a reverse “breaking of the fourth wall”. My perspective is that 9/11 was an event which would have only allowed stories to be played out on stage could then be accepted as fact. So in response, what was created was an entire industry called “Security” based on something that should be caught on film with actors. This was the incorrect way to address the issue.

Now, what we need are more MythBuster-type people to test supposed hypotheticals before billions are spent putting in place systems which only add overhead expense and what amounts to government-mandated submission. Today, these are solutions put into place to solve problems dreamed up by people who should be in the scriptwriting business.

Another way to look at it: Consider that the financial provisions put into the Patriot Act didn’t really help prevent the last financial melt-down. The monied interests needed permission to grope your financial records to determine risk, and ensure people who are sold derivatives and futures will stay around long enough to be profitable as a major factor to the extreme leverage was the little-known fact that financial obligations expire under death of the obligator. By having access to full financial records can a company determine potential life expectancy date. At the same time, they are able to accurately determine additional things such as political affiliation, and frankly, you’re silly if you think some of the things we’re starting to see aren’t politically motivated.

Anonymous Kansas Coward says:

Kleenex, too

Just today a co-worker emailed me this:
The last time I got scanned by one of those things, the security officer standing next to me got a transmission on her walkie talkie. She looked very serious and said things like, ?uh-huh…okay…something in the pocket…? She looked me up and down and then said, ?You have something in your pocket. I need you to empty your pocket.? I reached into my pocket and pulled out the weapon in question: a neatly-folded kleenex. ?This??
?Oh. It?s just a kleenex.?
Um, yeah.
So, apparently, kleenexes look like guns under x-ray machines.

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