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TSA agents can now force passengers to go through body scanners, even if they opt out

Updated 4 years ago
Published Dec 22nd, 2015 4:05PM EST
TSA Body Scanners
Image: Getty Images

Just in time for the busy holiday travel season, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has changed the rules of airport protocol to allow TSA agents to force certain passengers to go through the Advanced Imaging Technologies (AIT), even if they want to opt out and would prefer a pat-down.

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Although the updated rules appear to have been implemented on December 18th, ProPublica journalist Julia Angwin was one of the first to point it out on Tuesday afternoon.

“TSA is updating the AIT PIA to reflect a change to the operating protocol regarding the ability of individuals to opt opt-out of AIT screening in favor of physical screening,” reads the DHS document. “While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers. TSA does not store any personally identifiable information from AIT screening.”

In order to ease the minds of any nervous travelers who have preferred to opt out in the past, the DHS makes it clear that not only is the AIT incapable of storing any of the images it captures, but also that “the Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) software replaces the individual’s image with that of a generic figure.”

The image above is what (we’re told) a TSA agent sees after scanning your body. If even that makes you uncomfortable, you can still attempt to opt out in the future, but the “threat detection capabilities” are such an improvement over a standard pat-down that the DHS is doing everything it can to force passengers through an AIT scanner.

Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.