Is there a way to be both safe AND private at airport security?
An image of the ProVision ATD mannequin as seen by the operator standing at the machine. It looks the same for every person.
For instance, what if instead of looking like an X-ray of a naked person, what if everyone just looked like Gumby? That's how it looks when you go through a scanner equipped with a software program called ProVision. It's made by a company in Massachusetts and it turns everyone's image into something like a cartoon mannequin. If you're carrying something, that shows up on the scan but your naked body does not.
ProVision should be ready for U.S. airports some time next year, but that's little comfort to those traveling this year. We talk to Noah Shachtman; he writes for Wired and is a non-resident fellow at Brookings. Noah explains the backscatter scanners and the millimeter wave system, two types of equipment being used at airports today. Noah points out that these started being introduced to airports before the so-called "underwear bomber" tried to blow up a commercial flight with explosives he was able to smuggle through.
Noah tells us too that some of the older equipment was built with USB ports and other potential connectivity, leading to fears of sharing scanned photos.
We also talk to Dr. Bill Wattenburg. He was at Livermore Labs many years ago, working on some of the technologies that would presage the modern scanner. He says there's an easy way to anonymize all the images from a scanner, just distort the outlines of a silhouette. That part of the body, he says, doesn't need to be outlined anyway and if we all look like big blobs, then no one will be upset.
Also on this program, Angry Birds. The game originally designed for iPhone has become a beast unto itself, with tens of millions of downloads, plush toys, rumors of movie and TV spinoffs, and more. But it won't work on older Android phones. Angry Birds maker Rovio says now it's working on that problem.