Two researchers from the University of California have published a report on airport security backscatter x-ray machines, and show that despite the millions invested in the technology, its effectiveness may be overrated.
In the report, Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson provide a very technical analysisof the technology, and how hidden items can be kept from being detected when they are placed outside the side of the body or items with hard edges. Even when the x-ray exposure power is increased beyond normal levels, these items remain undetected.
Of course, some may argue that releasing this information only helps terrorists – but getting stuff like this out in the open also shows that the massive investment in backscatter technology is not going to be the holy grail in airport security products.
Combine these findings with the privacy concerns and untested safety aspects, and they are suddenly not looking as great as the did when they first arrived at the airport.
If you don’t mind some light technical reading on this lazy Sunday, check out the report for yourself (PDF file).