While going through security at Fort Lauderdale International Airport’s terminal 3 today I did something for the very first time: I opted out. I didn’t do this to be a jerk. I did it because I wasn’t in a hurry, and I saw the airport was using the controversial backscatter X-ray machines (pictured above).
These were introduced after the 2009 Christmas Day bomber and have caused all kinds of uproar with privacy groups since they depict people’s private areas. Since then software has been created to make people look like cartoon characters instead of humans.
But that’s not why I opted out. I did it because these machines are believed to omit harmful radiation, and I travel so much that I don’t need any more exposure to this.
After I put my belongings on the belt I politely told the TSA agent that I was opting out and he said no problem. He called another agent over who escorted me through a secure area and grabbed my personal belongings after they were screened. He told me he was going to pat me down as he put on gloves. He asked if I wanted it in public or private and I said public was fine. The agent was friendly and thorough and it took about five extra minutes.
I asked if a lot of passengers opt out and he said no except some frequent business travelers and that they should. That surprised me and inspired me to write this post since I think it’s important for everyone to know about the potential harmful effects and to know your rights.
The good news is the government (TSA) has finally terminated the contract with Rapiscan, the company that makes the backscatter X-ray machines, and most units have been removed from airports. The remaining ones will be gone by June 1, 2013.
Here are some links with tons of technical information.