Airport Full Body Image Scans can be Transmitted, Stored

Dennis Faas's picture

Contrary to U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) assurances, full body scanners used in U.S. airports can store and transmit digital strip search images of people.

The TSA has asserted that these scanners have zero storage capability and that any scanned full body images won't be printed, stored or transmitted and will be deleted immediately once viewed. However, those assertions appear to be false. (Source:

Full Body Scanners Have Storage, Transmission Capabilities

A redacted 70-page document (PDF) obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) under freedom of information laws reveal that full body scanners do indeed have storage and transmission capabilities. (Source:

TSA procurement specification v1.02, 23 from September 2008 reveals that the Whole Body Imager (WBI) will have "a high capacity read/write drive... to permit data uploads and downloads." Furthermore, the WBI will also provide capabilities for transferring data via USB devices and support both Ethernet and TCP/IP.

According to the specs, data will be stored for up to a year on the hard drive.

Screening and Test Mode Specs

The TSA procurement spec details two operating modes. While in screening mode the WBI will prohibit the storage and exporting of passenger images. While in test mode, WBI can capture images but won't be able to screen passengers.

TSA specifications (PDF) for the WBI allegedly prohibit local storage of image data in all modes, but the WBI shall employ 256-bit encryption. The use of heavy encryption in the WBI appears to contradict the allegation that images won't be stored on the machines. (Source:

Raw Data, Reports Available for Download

The TSA specifications shall ensure that all data recorded in the Field Data Reporting System (FDRS) is an accurate record of the events required to be recorded, and that all data in each of the tables are captured and correlated throughout. Raw data -- and all data reports -- from the FDRS shall be available for downloading.

As noted by the Register, the system does not know a passenger from a non-passenger and the TSA spec does not state how the system is switched between 'screening' and 'testing' mode. (Source:

WBIs can Record Images for Training Purposes

EPIC has posted more than 250 pages of documents obtained concerning the body scanners. One of those documents says one system, identified by the government, can record images for training purposes. (Source:

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