Rage Against the Machines: Some Travelers to Opt Out of Airport Body Scanners

by  Molly Fergus | Nov 17, 2010
TSA security checkpoint
TSA security checkpoint / PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock

If you’re riled up about the Advanced Imaging Technology machines now installed at 68 airports nationwide, you’re in good company.

The debate over the security tool – which displays naked images of flyers as they walk through security in order to detect any weapons hidden beneath their clothes – is heating up as the holiday season approaches, with one group of travelers threatening to collectively opt out of the controversial screening method on November 24, the busiest travel day of the year.

Although the T.S.A. says that the images cannot ever be saved or printed, the machines have drawn criticism for both their invasive nature and the potentially harmful effects of radiation on frequent flyers. The only alternative – a two-minute, full-body pat down by T.S.A. agents – is equally unappealing, which convinced Brian Sodergren to dub the day before Thanksgiving “National Opt-Out Day.”

Sodergren organized the protest via the website www.optoutday.com; if successful, crowds of Thanksgiving travelers will declare mutiny and accept a frisking in public – instead of in a private room – to demonstrate just how invasive the new set of security measures are, and to take a stand that travelers have, “. . . a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent,” according to a press release on the website.

However well-intentioned this protest, it could also wreak absolute havoc on a weekend when some 1.6 million people are expected to take to the skies. We’re having a tough time deciding whether a serious security traffic jam is worth the fight, or if we should just grin, bear it, and touch down in time to fight for a turkey drumstick. Will you opt out?

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