I hope you're not one of those people who already felt vulnerable and exposed by having to remove your shoes and belt in the airport security check, because things are about to get a lot worse for you. According to William Saletan over at Slate, the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) has revised its position on the use of millimeter wave passenger imaging scanners (also called "naked machines"). Scanners that produce images like the one you see to the left are going to be a regular part of security checks at the airports in San Francisco, Miami, Albuquerque, Tulsa, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas... with other cities to follow soon thereafter. The TSA claims that the millimeter scanners are still "voluntary" for passengers, but they're using a definition of "voluntary" that probably diverges from your everyday use of that term. Passengers who refuse to pass through the naked machines will have to "undergo metal detector screening and a pat-down," which may also include what the TSA calls an "enhanced pat-down" that exceeds in intimacy what most people hope for only after several dates in a romance.
When the TSA began using these virtual strip-search machines, they attempted to head off objections to them by installing a "privacy algorithm" that helped the machine obscure the most revealing and private features of passengers' bodies (like it is obviously still able to do with the woman's face in this picture). The TSA website no longer includes any mention of the words "privacy algorithm"... and I think the pictures speak for themselves. But, still, the machines are voluntary, right? Au contraire! According to a USA Today report, most fliers had no idea how graphic the naked machine's images were before stepping through it. That may technically count as "voluntary," but that's a far cry from "informed consent," which is a standard our legal system usually adheres to when judging the sorts of activities that people enagage in naked.
What's more, covert tests just two years ago showed that TSA still failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents about 60% of the time at two of the nation's busiest airports (Chicago's O'Hare and LAX). Feel safer?