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Airports forced to make change to X-ray machines after horror over what they were able to actually see

Airports forced to make change to X-ray machines after horror over what they were able to actually see

Travel hubs were forced to go back to the drawing board after realising there was a major teething problem.

Getting through airport security is like a full military manoeuvre these days - you have to empty the contents of your life into a tray, put your liquids into a small plastic bag then parade past a number of scanners and beady-eyed staff.

Airports really took things up a notch when they introduced X-ray machines that analyse you from head to toe, which have the ability to detect any potential threats.

The process is obviously a lot less intrusive than being physically patted down by border staff, but it isn't exactly a perfect alternative as when it first launched, it had a few major teething problems.

A lot of people don't realise, but the scanners brought in by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) used to produce a full body image of the traveller who is stood in it with their legs akimbo and their arms in the air - warts and all.

The backscatter technology began rolling out in airports after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day in 2009, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab concealed plastic explosives in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Thankfully, he was restrained by passengers, who were also able to put out a fire started in his attempt to detonate the explosives.

However, the issue with the new body scanners that were brought in after that close call was that they showed everything, and I mean everything.

Airports had to make a major change to the X-ray systems back in 2013.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A total of 174 scanners were reportedly in use in 30 US airports at the time, and all of them displayed a full 'nude' X-ray of each passenger.

And in the UK, the full-body scanners were in use at 10 of Britain's largest airports back in 2013.

The X-ray technology has been dubbed the equivalent to a strip search by some critics, who have slammed it for being too nosy for their liking.

The effectiveness of the Rapiscan scanners - which cost $180,000 each - obviously caused a lot of controversy, as a number of people refused to go through them, which was within their rights.

The backlash got so bad, that airports were forced to remove the gadgets in June 2013.

TSA said in a statement at the time: "Due to its inability to deploy non-imaging Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software by the Congressionally-mandated June 2013 deadline, TSA has terminated part of its contract with Rapiscan.

"By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput."

The scanners would previously show A LOT more than people were comfortable with.

These days, most travel hubs use millimetre wave scanners which use non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation to assess the holidaymaker standing in the machine without picking up their size, weight, height, genitalia - or even tampons. Shawna Malvini Redden, PhD, the author of 101 Pat-Downs and a communication researcher who has studied the TSA since 2010, told Readers Digest: "Early versions of the scanners came out without any privacy protections, and TSOs in the checkpoint could be looking at naked images of passengers as they went through the screening.

"Now when passengers are scanned, the machines are supposed to generate generic images of a body instead of the passenger’s unique image.

"Millimetre wave imaging technology does not detect items inside a passenger’s body or penetrate the skin."

So don't worry about security staff seeing any of your lumps and bumps next time you're travelling - just think about that cocktail you'll be sipping shortly after browsing duty free.

Featured Image Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images / X/@‌greendaylover44

Topics: Travel, Technology, Weird