At the heart of the controversy over "body scanners" is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public. U.S. Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35,000 images on their scanner. These are those images.
A Gizmodo investigation has revealed 100 of the photographs saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc., obtained by a FOIA request after it was recently revealed that U.S. Marshals operating the machine in the Orlando, Florida courthouse had improperly-perhaps illegally-saved images of the scans of public servants and private citizens. We understand that it will be controversial to release these photographs. But identifying features have been eliminated. And fortunately for those who walked through the scanner in Florida last year, this mismanaged machine used the less embarrassing imaging technique.
Yet the leaking of these photographs demonstrates the security limitations of not just this particular machine, but millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter body scanners operated by federal employees in our courthouses and by TSA officers in airports across the country. That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you're lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.
While the fidelity of the scans from this machine are of surprisingly low resolution, especially compared to the higher resolution "naked scanners" using the potentially harmful x-ray backscatter technology, the TSA and other government agencies have repeatedly touted the quality of "Advanced Imaging Technology" while simultaneously assuring customers that operators "cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image." According to the TSA—and of course other agencies—images from the scanners are "automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer." Whatever the stated policy, it's clear that it is trivial for operators to save images and remove them for distribution if they choose not to follow guidelines or that other employees could remove images that are inappropriately if accidentally stored.
To the point, these sample images were removed from the machine in Orlando by the U.S. Marshals for distribution under the FOIA request before the machine was sent back to its manufacturer—images intact.
We look forward to seeing your next vacation photos.