By Rebecca Brown
March 01, 2010

With more and more airports using Advanced Imaging Technology (also known as body scanners) as a screening procedure, passengers are concerned about privacy rights and the possible threat to both a healthy life and personal safety. Get the facts before your next trip.

What Is a Full-Body Airport Scan?

There are currently two types of equipment that scan full-body images, the Millimeter Wave and the Backscatter. The Millimeter Wave uses electromagnetic waves over the human body to recreate a blurred image for the screener. The Backscatter uses very low levels of x-ray technology to produce an image. "There are 40 Millimeters being used across 19 airports, and we have purchased 150 Backscatters, but have not yet deployed them," explains Sterling Payne, TSA spokesperson.

Are They a Risk to a Healthy Life?

Many people are worried about radiation exposure (Link: during a full-body airport scan, but according to the TSA, these levels are minimal. A diagram on the TSA's website claims that allowing the Backscatter to scan full-body images is equivalent to two minutes of flying on an airplane. Additionally, "the energy projected by Millimeter Wave technology is 10,000 times less than a cell phone transmission."

What About Privacy?

Even if scanners don't pose a risk to your healthy life, there are still privacy concerns. "Both units have privacy protections in place, including a privacy filter that hides facial features, and protections that include no printing, saving or transmitting of images," says Payne. Additionally, the officers who view the images are located in a remote location and are never in contact with the passenger. Still, if you're not comfortable with a full-body airport scan, you have the option to decline; doing so will result in a pat-down safety procedure.