Once upon a time, TSA’s full body scans showed “everything.” This is no longer the case



Full-body imaging machines used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) show a person’s private parts every time they “go through the x-ray scanner.”


Rating: obsoleteRating: obsolete

Rating: obsolete


The image above showing examples of TSA full body scans is authentic and was captured using the agency’s backscatter unit, hundreds of which were installed at US airports in 2010 The devices were, however, removed nationwide in 2013.

According to a January 18, 2024 illustrated article from The post (screenshot below) received hundreds of thousands of views before being hidden by the user. A archived version still exist.

TSA body scannersTSA body scanners

TSA body scanners

(@Ragland1836 / X)

Although the image included in the post is authentic, Snopes has determined through an reverse image search using Yandex (archive) that the first known instance of the photo on the Internet was posted in 2010. Messages similar to the one above have been circulating for many years.

At that time (2010), the TSA was rolling out its new body scanning technology, called the “backscatter unit.”

“Backscatter technology projects low-intensity x-ray beams onto the body to create a reflection of the body displayed on the monitor,” the TSA explained in a “How It Works” blog, noting that the technology “produces an image which looks like a chalk engraving. .”

By the end of 2010, approximately hundreds of “body scanners” had been officially installed in U.S. airports, according to CST. Such units were used to detect non-metallic explosive weapons and other threats that could be concealed under clothing to evade traditional metal detectors already in place.

“Backscatter passenger scanners are used to detect threats such as weapons or explosives that a person might be carrying under their clothing. Backscatter machines use very low energy X-rays that are reflected back to the machine itself. wrote the Environmental Protection Agency in a digital explainer.

“In general, the amount of radiation received by a backscatter device is equal to the amount of cosmic radiation received during two minutes of flight and the risk of health effects is very, very low.”

Handouts distributed at the time noted that the intentionally collected images were “viewed in a remote location” and were not recorded or stored, but rather were immediately deleted”after examination and resolution of any anomaly.”

But backscatter scanners were short-lived. Considered by some to be “digital strip searches“, the machines were removed from US airports after users raised concerns about the lack of privacy. The TSA, on the other hand, noted that the scanners slowed down security checks. Millimeter wave technology similar to those commonly used in airports at the time of this publication rreplaced backscatter scannersoffering a more cartoon-like (i.e. less revealing) image of people passing through the scanners.


Center, Electronic Privacy Information. EPIC – Whole Body Imaging Technology and Body Scanners (Backscatter X-ray and Millimeter Wave Screening). https://archive.epic.org/privacy/airtravel/backscatter/. Accessed January 27, 2024.

Duffy, Lizzy. “‘Invasive’ body scanners will be removed from airports. » NPRJanuary 18, 2013. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/01/18/169733300/invasive-body-scanners-will-be-removed-from-airports.

Grabell, Michael. “TSA removes X-ray body scanners from major airports.” ProPublicaOctober 19, 2012, https://www.propublica.org/article/tsa-removes-x-ray-body-scanners-from-major-airports.

—. “TSA removes X-ray body scanners from major airports.” ProPublicaOctober 19, 2012, https://www.propublica.org/article/tsa-removes-x-ray-body-scanners-from-major-airports.

https://Twitter.Com/Ragland1836/Status/1748203864845677028. X (formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/Ragland1836/status/1748203864845677028. Accessed January 27, 2024.

Transportation Safety Timeline | Transportation Safety Administration. https://www.tsa.gov/timeline. Accessed January 27, 2024.

U.S. EPA, OAR. Analysis of radiation and airport security. August 15, 2017, https://www.epa.gov/radtown/radiation-and-airport-security-scanning.


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