All Backscatter Body Scanners Officially Removed From Airports

The “virtual strip searches” are over.

It’s finally over—the TSA told Congress that it has finished changing all Advanced Imagining Technology (also known as backscatter scanners) airport body scanners to Automatic Target Recognition machines (also known as the millimeter wave scanners). The backscatter scanners caused public uproar as many thought that the graphic images of passengers’ bodies were too revealing, and there were concerns over the lack of privacy safeguards.)

Earlier this year, the TSA had promised to remove the backscatter scanners from all airports by June 1, and it seems that they have met their deadline. As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, all airports were also required to have full-body scanners by June 1, so be prepared to see the millimeter wave scanners at even the smallest airports now.

The millimeter wave scanners use radio waves rather than X-rays, and produce a cartoon outline of passengers, rather than a graphic body image. Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told CNN, “I think from the privacy perspective, that (the elimination of backscatter machines) has to be considered a victory,” but that he still has some privacy concerns over the millimeter wave scanners, stating, “We’d like to see clearer rules about the collection of the images. Are they deleted? Are they saved? Is some analysis being done and can they be linked to passengers?”

However, you might not have seen the last of the backscatter machines—the TSA has reportedly said that the scanners could be brought back in the future if required privacy-protecting software is developed.

What do you think about the changeover? Tell us in the comments!

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

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