Starting July 17, passengers traveling through Boise Airport will be going through a different kind of security screening process.
Three optical body scanners have been installed in the screening area, and through the use of advanced imaging technology, can safely scan passengers for both metallic and non-metallic threats.
Those threats may include items like weapons or explosives that could be concealed under a passenger’s clothing. Additionally, the scans allow Transportation Security Administration agents to screen a person without physical contact.
“By and large most reaction from people who have gone through the scanning process has been positive,” Andrew Coose said. Coose is the TSA federal security director for Idaho.
Each optical scanner costs between $150,000 to $170,000, and were funded through federal stimulus dollars. Currently, the TSA has 134 units in 38 airports nationwide and plans to add a total of 450 units through the remainder of 2010.
One of the questions about the new technology centers around privacy concerns. Each scan is similar to that of an X-ray, which creates a reflection of a person’s body that is displayed on a monitor. The image resembles a chalk etching.
“Images can’t be stored, transmitted, or printed, and it is deleted right after it is viewed. Privacy is assured,” Coose said.
The entire scanning process takes between four to seven seconds and requires a passenger remove all items from their pockets before walking through the scanner which snaps an image of that person. That image is not seen by the TSA agent at the checkpoint. Instead, it is viewed in a separate walled-off room by a second officer. If no potential threat or anomaly is detected, it is immediately deleted.
Coose said the screening process is optional, and passengers who choose not to go through an optical scanner, will instead be required to use an alternate screening process which includes a physical pat down.