Airport dating protocol
But this is of little comfort to Coney, the privacy advocate with EPIC, a public interest research group in Washington.
She said she's seen whole-body images captured by similar technology dating back to 2004 that were much clearer than what's represented by the airport machines.
The rest present them as a voluntary secondary security option in lieu of a pat-down, which is protocol for those who've repeatedly set off the metal detector or have been randomly selected for additional screening.
If terrorists are swayed from going through airports, they'll just target other locations, such as a hotel in Mumbai, India, he said. and back to pre-9/11 levels of airport security," he said.
"People need to know what's happening, with no sugar-coating and no spinning," said Coney, who is also coordinator of the Privacy Coalition, a conglomerate of 42 member organizations.
She expects other groups to sign on in the push for the technology's suspension until privacy safeguards are in place.
Using millimeter wave technology, which the TSA says emits 10,000 times less radio frequency than a cell phone, the machine scans a traveler and a robotic image is generated that allows security personnel to detect potential threats -- and, some fear, more -- beneath a person's clothes.
TSA officials say privacy concerns are addressed in a number of ways. The one working the machine never sees the image, which appears on a computer screen behind closed doors elsewhere; and the remotely located officer who sees the image never sees the passenger.