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You Can Opt Out of New Full-Body Scanners at the Airport…But Be Prepared for Humiliation if You Do

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While you might have the "option" to decline a body scan at the airport, you will most definitely pay the price–at least that’s according to one NYT reporter. While at O’ Hare International Airport, Joe Sharkey decided to opt out of the body scan. Unfortunately, his experience after that was anything but pleasant. According to Sharkey, upon opting out:

I was marched from the metal detector lane to one of those nearby whole-body imagers, ordered to take everything out of my pockets, remove my belt and hold my possessions up high. Then I was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.

The new scanners are in about 317 of the roughly 2,000 airports nationwide. The Transportation Security Administration initially referred to the machines as "whole-body imagers" but now has re-named them to "advanced imaging technology units". Critics of the machines cite privacy concerns, since the machines essentially takes a see-through-your-clothes full body scan. In addition, critics also cite the fact that the machines use X-ray technology, which means that if you travel very often, you’re exposed to radiation pretty regularly.

The T.S.A.’s current position is that anyone can opt out of a body scan for privacy concerns, but must submit to a fully-body pat-down and a careful search of their belongings. About 500 machines total should be online by the end of the year, the agency said, and another 500 are expected to be installed next year. In the post-9/11 world, we’re all more antsy when it comes to air travel. However, Sharkey’s experience highlights the need for better communication with passengers on the part of T.S.A. officials–without shouting or treating passengers like terrorists.