Senators Want to Criminalize Distribution of TSA Body Scan Photos

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Senators Charles Schumer and Ben Nelson will introduce an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration bill that would criminalize the use of TSA body scanner images.

The body scans essentially reveal the naked human body -- and created substantial controversy over the heavy holiday travel season. People have rightly pointed out that digital files have a strange way of making their way outside of their intended systems. Schumer and Nelson hope that criminalizing that behavior may make such leaks less likely and ease privacy concerns.

Under the legislation, the Security Screening Confidential Data Privacy Act, anyone who disseminates the body scan images could serve up to a year in jail and pay a $100,000 fine for every image.

It's co-sponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

A Schumer staffer told me that he expects the underlying FAA legislation to pass handily, but future of the amendment itself isn't as clear. Either way, I'd put my money against any penalties allaying the fears of those who are worried about the scans' impact on civil liberties.

Update 2:54pm: Added clarification to prospects for the FAA bill.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/02/senators-want-to-criminalize-distribution-of-tsa-body-scan-photos/70947/