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Innovation & Technology

Photo of a Backscatter x-ray machine

Operational testing of backscatter technology is now underway at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (press release). It will be used in secondary screening, on a voluntary basis as an alternative to a pat-down. In addition to usual effectiveness and suitability assessments, TSA also will be examining operational issues, including throughput, privacy considerations, training, safety of use and perceptions by the traveling public.

Part of the challenge in testing security technology in the field is navigating through real world logistical issues, which by nature vary broadly. For backscatter, TSA's team in Phoenix has worked with the airport to establish a separate location for the security officer who will view the images so that the officer never sees the passenger.

To ensure this additional layer of privacy, TSA constructed an enclosed office in the vicinity of the checkpoint so that operational testing of the equipment can get underway. Longer term, TSA is pulling cable and fiber to establish a remote image-viewing location in an adjacent terminal.

TSA plans to expand the backscatter pilot later this year to JFK and LAX. There will be opportunity for continued public dialogue as we see how the technology works in the airport setting.

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