No More Airport Nude-o-Scope Images in the US, Are You Still Opting Out?

The TSA has replaced all X-ray imaging displayed to operators of the controversial backscatter machines at airports with the “Gumby” stick figure version common on the millimeter wave machines, NBC News reported.

According to the report:

In a letter released Thursday, TSA administrator John Pistole told the House Homeland Security committee that as of May 16, all US airports scanners equipped with the ability to produce the penetrating images will now only show a generic outline of a passenger to the operator.

So that begs the question… are you still opting out?

I’m definitely in the minority among most travel bloggers, as I never opted out in the first place when the scanners originally came online.

Why? Personally, the physical pat down where a TSO brings the back of his hand up my inner thigh until he “meets resistance,” is far more invasive to me than a naked outline image of myself on someone’s screen, even if the image could have been saved in one way or another.

Will the TSA’s action in swapping out the images at airports where the backscatter machines are still in use change your mind about opting out?

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.


  1. Well, I’m not certain whether this better news for us or the TSA folks that had to view the images. I will continue to opt out until Medtronic says my insulin pump can survive the scanning. But I’m a limited case.

  2. How about the lack of research regarding health effects? Kind of like when smoking was not bad for your health. How about prescription drugs pulled off the market years after their release?

  3. I usually just go through the machine, but it seems as though with the MMW machines I still sometimes get asked for a pat down after the image is viewed if they aren’t sure about something. FWIW I never have anything on me or in my pockets – not even a belt! So, I wonder if they have more trouble interpreting these images? My wife has found that they seem less “invasive” lately when we go through

  4. If the anthrax shots have not killed me yet – then I’m still going through the x-ray machines…

  5. I’m still surprised that you’re in the minority among travel bloggers, but by the way they write most seem to have a big problem with the scanners. Perhaps, as with Marshall Jackson, they have health concerns or worry about radiation?

    Like you, I’ve never bothered, but then it’s never an issue I’ve cared about much in terms of my own privacy. The overall silliness of the security process is more aggravating, in that it’s mostly for show. But since pre-check arrived it’s mostly metal detectors, and my local airport has no scanner, so there’s been even less reason to get worked up.

    Everyone feels a bit differently on this, though.

  6. I still opt out as I take offence at the position I would have to assume if I did not opt out.

  7. @Stefan: I’ve also had an area in question come up after going through a MMW, but it was usually my sleeve (metal buttons), so fortunately I have still never had my “resistance” touched. 😉

  8. I find most of the people who opt out, for non medical reasons, to be idiots. Anyone who flys but opts out of them because of the radiation just can’t be taken seriously.

  9. Am I missing something. How will they see something being concealed if they are shown a generic stick figure. Maybe I need to do some additional research as obviously they can or they wouldn’t be instituting the change..I guess..but my first reaction is one of confusion about the effectiveness of the damn things to begin with

    Anyone care to discuss?

  10. I see, backscatter machines are being removed altogether and being replaced with only MMW machines that highlight only where further discovery is warranted.

    I have two further comments, you may choose either one to ponder:

    1-This is your government listening to public opinion and our collective voices being heard.

    2-In the words if Rosanna Rosannadana, “Never mind.”

  11. @Haldami – what about those of us who opt out for nothing other than principle? are we idiots too?
    And, mind you, you don’t need to be all that principled to find fault with the machines, either. Radiation/health aside, they impose a direct and measurable cost on you- your tax dollars and the extra 20 min you spent waiting in line. That extra 5-10 sec per passenger has a pretty devastating effect on throughput…

  12. I haven’t opted out since Sept, but when I don’t get PreCheck my tendonitis kicks in. No nude-o-scopes or opt outs, the best of both worlds! 🙂

  13. Haldami. An idiot? You display a profound level of ignorance. As a cancer survivor who received radiation treatments, and have worked in a medical field where I was likewise exposed to radiation during training, you are the idiot for suggesting that I go against my oncologist’s recommendation – avoid ANY avoidable radiation. And yes, I am aware that flying gives you radiation. While that is tiny compared to the CT scans and therapeutic radiation I needed to be cured, I now fly a lot less than I did prior to the cancer. Is this a discussion that I want to have with an ill trained TSA agent each time I opt out and get a patdown? A TSA agent once told a pregnant friend of mine that “the machine is just like getting an ultrasound of your baby” when she opted out.
    They really have NO IDEA what they are talking about. And you are trusting them to use and potentially calibrate machines? That irradiate you?

  14. I opt out 100% of the time the line doesn’t have a metal dectector and I don’t get pre-clear. The ‘science’ was clearly on the wrong side of backscatter (EU has banned them. I still believe the science is out on MMW…so until I’m satisfied through independent analysis – I will protect my health by limiting additional exposure to concentrated radiowave technology – and take 10 minutes extra for the free tsa massage.

  15. I’m opting out because that machine always picks up my back pocket where my wallet has worn a pattern in my pants. So since I’m going to get pat down anyway I might as well skip the cancer causing part of it.

  16. I’ll miss the backscatter machines, because I was hoping to one day send a random TSA screener a four-photo series of the “YMCA” in nude-o-scope form. We already get to do the “Y,” why not the rest?

  17. On the rare occasions I don’t get Pre-Check, I always opt out when it’s backscatter and sometimes when its MMW–just don’t trust any of it, really, but I’m running too late to stand on principle at times. TSA agents seem to treat anyone who opts out with open contempt, and I don’t want to give them the chance to make me miss my flight.

  18. I frequently opted out as a silent protest against the invasive policies of the TSA. Now that I have TSA-Pre at my home airport, its only when I get sent to the back of the line because of the vagaries of TSA-Pre and how it randomizes who can go through and who can’t, that I opt out. Being denied TSA-PRE really gets my juices boiling, so I opt out consistently when that happens. Just a small protest. Another silent protest – I refuse to talk to the TSA unless I am asked a direct question that has to be answered. The TSA is an annoyance, and grin and bear it is my survival philosophy.

  19. they still find some area to touch and grab even with the radiation machines ,,when are the tsa guys going to get dosimeters or should we have them and see what happens to our reading if we travel alot

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