TSA Body Scanners False Alarms for Black People or Overweight



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  • The body scanner at the TSA airport may be more likely to trigger false alarms against some members of society.
  • According to a report released by ProPublica this week, TSA body scanners are more likely to trigger false alarms for African-American passengers.
  • More specifically, the report indicates that some hairstyles common to members of the African-American community, such as afro, braids and dreadlocks, are more likely to trigger false alarms.
  • A GAO report cited by the history also indicates higher rates of false alarms for obese passengers.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The US Transportation Security Administration's airport scanner may be more likely to trigger false alarms against some members of society. According to a report released by ProPublica this week, TSA body scanners are more likely to trigger false alarms for African-American passengers.

Read more: TSA surprises a man smuggling a handgun concealed in a DVD player at JFK Airport.

More specifically, the report by Brenda Medina and Thomas Frank indicates that some hairstyles shared by members of the African-American community, such as afro, braids and dreadlocks, tend to trigger false alarms.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Unfortunately, this results in "locks of hair" that force the screening officers to pass their fingers through the hair of the passengers. This is a procedure that the story calls invasive and degrading.

TSA officials were not immediately available to comment on this case.

The article quotes a 2014 report by the US GAO (Government Accountability Office) that scanners "also had a higher false alarm rate when passengers wore a turban and wig."

In addition, the GAO report revealed that the rate of false alarms does not increase only by hairstyles and hairstyles; a passenger's body fat will also affect the rate of false alarms.

TSA body scanner.
TSA

"The false alarm rate for passengers with normal body mass index was lower than the false alarm rate for overweight or obese passengers," the GAO report said.

According to the GAO report, the TSA did not include the false alarm rate as one of the essential performance requirements when evaluating the scanning system to be deployed. However, the agency admitted in its report that "the current rate of system false alarms could lead to an increase in annual staff costs on the ground".

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