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Less Invasive, 'Gumby' Body Scanners to Debut at Boston Airport

Thursday, 5 Jul 2012 | 11:37 AM ET

The Transportation Security Administration introduced full-body scanners at airports across the nation in 2009, and many travelers hate that a "naked" image of themselves is reviewed by officers in a nearby room.

The only way to avoid the image process is to instead undergo a physical screening by a TSA officer, which some travelers say can be just as invasive.

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Now a new generation of scanners is emerging that will display "Gumby"-like images of passengers rather than today's more detailed passenger-specific snapshots, as pictured at left.

Boston Logan International Airport will be the first U.S. airport to use the new advanced imaging technology (AIT) body scanning machines during the next two months.

By the fall, all 25 of the Boston airport's current scanners will be swapped out with the new machines. And more airports will see the new units in the coming years.

The TSA in 2011 announced it would spend $44.8 million to purchase 300 of the new L-3 ProVision ATD units to be deployed at 29 airports in the U.S. Instead of an explicit "naked" image, the new machine offers a rougher outline of a passenger's body that's similar to the A-shaped silhouette of "Gumby," the green clay cartoon character.

And the new machines may even speed up the security screening process. George Naccara, TSA's federal security director-Massachusetts, told Air Transport World that the machines may be "nearly as fast" as walk-through metal detectors.

It's a move in the right direction where passengers can feel more comfortable knowing their images aren't quite as revealing, yet still maintain a high level of security.

I'm not an "opt out" kind of traveler currently. I feel the physical screening is more invasive to my privacy. Having another person I don't even know get very personal during a pat down just creeps me out.

How about you? Do you opt out today or go through the scanners?

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