Victory For Transgender Privacy: TSA Abandons ‘Nude’ Body Scanners

In what is an important victory for the transgender community, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has announced it will remove all body scanners that show nearly nude images from airports. The TSA had already removed 76 of the machines and will now remove the remaining 174, though they may still be used in other government offices where privacy is not a concern like it is in airports. Congress had set a deadline for OSI Systems to develop software for the scanners to produce generic passenger images instead of the the nearly nude images, but the company was unable to meet the timeline. Scanners produced by other companies that have managed to adjust the software will continue to be used.

The invasion of privacy caused by the machine was particularly invasive for transgender people, who were considered suspicious if their¬†genitalia¬†did not match their presentation. Even the software change utilized by the remaining body scanners, which are manufactured by L-3, use “blue” and “pink” indicators for gender that can still cause confusion (and thus concern) for trans passengers. As a result, they can be disproportionately selected for invasive pat downs.

The TSA is planning to expand its PreCheck program, in which passengers share more personal data before arriving at the airport but can then go through metal detectors instead of body scanners.