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November 29, 2011 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Airport body scans -- male and female buttons. How do they work?

Traveling this past weekend, we went through one of the body scan machines at the airport in Detroit.

I noticed the people operating the machines pressed a pink button for the females and blue for the males.

Does it scan men and women differently? It didn't look like anything graphic came up on the display screen? Does it block out male and female 'parts'?

Can someone explain how this works...
posted by mittenbex to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It probably sends male scans to a computer operated by a man, and female scans to a computer operated by a woman.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:35 AM on November 29, 2011


As for the science of how it actually scans - I have no idea. All I know is they really don't work well as counter terrorism experts have frequently gotten dangerous materials through (thought I saw that somewhere on Metafilter but can't find the post).

As for the blue/pink buttons, it determines what generic avatar to use for you. A male will only have their groin blacked out, while female will have their breasts as well. It doesn't capture individual information and uses a very generic looking clayish type person.
posted by lpcxa0 at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2011


Also, I should note that while it might be blacked or blurred out (really not sure which), it also does flag potentially dangerous materials if concealed if those locations. I've seen women (twice) who have had too much metal in their bras asked to step aside for a pat down or taken away for a more through search; so concealing it in your privates isn't an option.
posted by lpcxa0 at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2011


The TSA has equipped all of their millimeter-wave body scanners - the cylindrical ones - with Automated Threat Detection systems. This means that the actual image created by the scan is no longer reviewed by a person, but is scanned automatically for threats by computer, with a simplified display of potential issues for the TSA agents operating the machine.

A dealer of the machines indicates that the male and female buttons specify which algorithm the machine should use to scan the images for threats.

I've looked into this in the past because I always have an issue when I'm scanned. My left leg is generally swollen with edema from a DVT I had years ago, and while you wouldn't notice it while I'm wearing loose pants, there is a very large disparity in size between my treetrunk-like left leg and my normal looking right leg. The machines always detect this discrepancy in size as being a potential threat, and so I'm flagged for a patdown. It's a real pain.
posted by eschatfische at 9:57 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


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