scanners coming to Australia

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in Other Countries' started by jackonferry, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. jackonferry

    jackonferry Original Member

  2. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    We have an Australian member. I can't remember -- is is RadioGirl?
  3. jackonferry

    jackonferry Original Member

    I think that's right. She's been on "the other board" this week correcting some misinformation about MMW machines. The Australian program will operate MMW machines with ATR, by the way.
  4. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    I wonder if they'll grope like their American counterparts? Somehow I doubt it. They don't have Pervert-in-Chief John Pistole.
  5. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Guess I won't be going back to Austrailia. I've rather enjoyed researching our family history (at least 4 criminals, including a horse thief originally sentenced to be hanged) and reconnecting with a cousin in Sydney who lived with us in Norway 50 years ago.

    However, I won't be scanned.
  6. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Yes, I'm the resident Aussie.

    While this is disappointing news, there are a few tiny mitigating factors. First, I believe that legislation is being introduced this week, so it hasn't yet been passed, although the Courier Mail makes it sound like a done deal. (I need to research that, but don't have the time right now.) Secondly, it's only the international terminals, which isn't any comfort for overseas visitors who will have to face when they leave Australia or for those of us who travel overseas, but at least it's not at the domestic terminals. (In Australia, int'l and domestic departures use different facilities, although there a very few domestic flights which are the first leg of a flight continuing overseas and which use the int'l terminal.) Third, as Lisa guesses, the attitude and general behavior of the checkpoint staff is not nearly as offensive as (from my experience) the TSA. I get a patdown quite often when I set off the WTMD with my fancy titanium hip, but it's not really that intrusive. Since (unfortunately) opting out for a patdown does not appear to be an option, there's no reason to expect retaliatory groping. Finally, at least it's MMW with ATR which eliminates the health issue and reduces the privacy issues. (And AFAIK, Australia has no 4th amendment for me to fall back on...:()

    I guess we still have to see how it all pans out. There's some (small?) chance that the legislation won't pass. It's not clear how many scanners they'll install (there are about 10 or 12 security lanes at SYD) or how passengers will be selected for the scanners. And then there's the notorious false-positive-need-a-patdown-anyway factor. If a majority of departing Australian passengers get scanned and many of them need a patdown afterwards, trust me, there will be opposition. Also Australia relies heavily on tourism and if this affects tourist numbers, there will be pushback.

    Still, disappointing.
  7. Fredd

    Fredd Original Member

    Indeed it is. For years I've been telling people about the sensible ways Aussies handle security and now this. :(
  8. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    54% false-positive rate on the MMW scanners.
  9. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

  10. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

  11. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    Seems to me the Aussie government is picking a fight with civil liberties groups for nothing. Based on my recent observations and the comments I've read from others, virtually no one is opting-out anyway. If they adopt the new "pat down" procedure that TSA is using on false positives, it's innocuous enough that those won't prompt much resistance.

    Like it or not, the MMW scanners aren't going anywhere, particularly now that TSA pulled the ATR charade. Most folks don't care whether it works or not so long as they get through security. Since these pose no health risk and have privacy software, arguing against them on the basis of civil liberties is a tough sell to most folks who simply don't care.

    The world is moving away from the x-ray units on health risk grounds and my guess is that they'll all eventually be replaced with MMW. TSA will waste more taxpayer money replacing the x-ray systems just as they did with the puffers.
  12. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    No health risks: That's a completely unsubstantiated conclusion. Less than x-ray? Probably. But until/unless the machines are independently tested and their maintentance routine is known, etc., you can't properly reach that conclusion. Some of us simply choose no unnecessary radiation from any source.

    Privacy software: The machines still take nude pictures and by specification must be capable of storing the images.
  13. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Privacy is still an issue and groping is still an issue. I don't care if every single scanner in the world is found to be 100% Safe, I still refuse to go through one and I still refuse to be groped.
  14. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    I'm with you.

    As for Australia, I guess this means that if I'm ever to get there, I have to do it sooner rather than later.
  15. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    I agree, the nude image is still in the machine and neither system has been tested but the general public has apparently bought in to the MMW/ATR package. These are probably the least objectionable of all of the perverse new developments for most travelers, they can rationalize using these easier than the x-ray units or gropings.

    My point was that from a practical standpoint for the Aussie government there are so few opt-outs that it doesn't seem worthwhile to create and issue by depriving anyone the option.

    The problem for us is that TSA and the whole security mega-plex is using the MMW/ATR as the poster child for "their response to public concern". This diverts the public's attention away from the fact that the BKSX are known to pose health risks, do not have privacy software while male peepers checki out the ladies. They are still groping and strip searching folks and stealing from passengers, but those are "isolated incidents".

    They're using the MMW and cartoon image to try to persuade the public that the TSA opponents who object to this circus are fringe loonies.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  16. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I disagree. Their rate of media bloopers has accelerated to such a degree that they're barely able to respond and make further asses of themselves. Six months ago they were able to muster their PR & manage the media. That's no longer working.

    We just need to keep the pressure on & let the bad new keep rolling out.
  17. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    No doubt and I continue to comment with these facts whenever a propaganda article on the ATR scanners comes up. Particularly now that these are making their way to tertiary airports.

    All I'm saying is that in the perspective of the uninformed the MMW units won't draw the same the same level of revulsion as the BKSX, thefts, gropings or child pornography reports. Those oblivious to what is going on don't know the difference between the MMW and BKSX and assume they all have ATR and use radio waves, which is precisely what TSA wants them to think. As Radio Girl pointed out, we don't know what the effects of the MMW are, but it is proven that x-ray exposure can be a hazard.

    Personally, I refuse the scanners primarily because I refuse to "assume the position", which I find more far more objectionable than some dimwit seeing my sorry butt naked. Just a matter of personal principles I guess.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  18. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Actually, what I've pointed out, repeatedly, is that the MMW scanners are (a) a factor of ~10 higher in frequency than WiFi and (b) a power level of approximately 1/100000 of a cell phone. I base these conclusions on (a) my own sources within the R&D community and (b) details filed with the FCC about the MMW scanners in relation to interference on other radio systems. Based on those two points (frequency and power), it's not that "we don't know what the effects of the MMW are." There is no reason whatsoever to believe that there is any health effect from MMW.

    It is significantly more likely that Lenore Zimmerman is a terrorist than that MMW is a potential health hazard. We (correctly) criticize the TSA for strip-searching grannies "out of an abundance of caution"; we must not fall into the same habit of scaremongering because "there might be something about MMW we don't know."

    Hyperbole on this point makes us look foolish to, for example, my professional colleagues.
    Lisa Simeone and Fisher1949 like this.
  19. RadioGirl -- I've read plenty of your rebuttals on this issue and defer to your scientific knowledge. But can you see how it's unsettling, to those of us who were, perhaps, English majors, that there is no independent testing of any of these machines? Even though I believe you that they're safe, I would feel better about the MMW to know that they've been thoroughly independently tested and that they are meticulously maintained. I would also feel better about the MMW if I knew the backscatter machines were thoroughly independently tested and meticulously maintained, but that they don't need to do that with the MMW because there is no safety issue.

    I guess I'm trying to say that there's the appearance of impropriety when someone's trying to force me inside either a full body x-ray or a microwave, and that there's been no significant testing of either one. And the appearance of impropriety is a pretty bad thing, especially when it comes from the government.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  20. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Phoebe, I do understand that people are worried about technology they don't understand. I especially understand that the TSA has lied about a lot of things and there is no a priori reason to trust them. I did the calculations myself, and talked to some friends in the industry, before I was willing to believe them and I realize that not everyone has the expertise or contacts to do that, which is why I am trying to share my knowledge here.

    I do believe that completely new technologies should be tested thoroughly. But this is a not a completely new technology. The MMW is the first time that the general public has seen, close up, this particular application for radio energy, and the general public is understandably wary. But the MMW scanner is, in fact, comparable to other radio systems which have been in widespread use for many years without (a) actual demonstration of adverse health effects or (b) the identification of a mechanism for causing health effects. I wasn't there; I don't know, but I don't believe that the manufacturers said "these might be safe, we don't know, we don't care" but rather "these expose people to energy similar to cell phones but at 1/100,000 of the power, so these are 100,000 times LESS dangerous than a cell phone." This is certainly the approach that is taken in the radio industry at large; there are standards for exposure to RF (based on how much energy would cause heating effect, and then applying a very very conservative safety margin), and when new radio equipment is designed and manufactured, it must comply with those standards. When things like WiFi or Bluetooth were developed, for example, there were not exhaustive lab tests to show whether they caused cancer in lab rats or monkeys, there was simply a demonstration that the emission levels were (significantly) below the standards.

    As for the maintenance, the energy from the MMW scanner is of a similar nature to your WiFi access point or keyless entry fob. Do people worry about the meticulous maintenance of the WiFi at Starbuck? Do they worry that the guy next to them at work has a keyless entry fob that's malfunctioning and causing them cancer? No, they don't (I hope not!) but it's not because those things are safer than MMW, but because they're familiar. And as the MMW scanners are about 1/100,000 of a cell phone, they would have to somehow malfunction by a factor of 100,000 to be as "dangerous" as a cell phone. Technology just doesn't do that. My oven isn't very well calibrated or maintained, but it doesn't heat up to 3,000,000 degrees. My car speedometer isn't very accurate, but it doesn't read 40 mph when I'm driving 400,000 mph.

    Let me try an analogy. Suppose that TSA announced that (for some reason) they were going to install green and purple striped polyester carpet at all airport checkpoints. Would the general public be insisting that these carpets be thoroughly independently tested and meticulously maintained? I doubt it. I don't have green-and-purple striped polyester carpet in my house; I don't know anyone or any building with such carpet; I may consider that it's incredibly ugly. Even though I've never seen carpet exactly like this, I know that it's similar enough to carpet that I've seen and used for years, and so I don't worry about its safety. Now suppose that you met a group of passengers who (for some reason) had never seen or heard of carpet, only solid floors. They are worried about walking across this ugly fuzzy thing to get through the checkpoint. They start insisting that the gov't spend taxpayer money to go do exhaustive independent tests to prove that the carpet is not dangerous. They want to see the maintenance records. They point to the fact that TSA are liars, and say "Why should I believe them when they say the carpet is safe?" Would you support them in their insistence on testing, or would you try to reassure them that you'd seen lots of carpets for many years in many places and while this one is visually offensive, it is not dangerous? Would the safety (or otherwise) of the carpet depend on whether the gov't is forcing you to walk across it to get to your plane or whether it's in the airline lounge?

    To me, radio energy is as common (and as ubiquitous) as carpet. It's everywhere, but you don't notice it. As you would (I hope) help the people who are scared of carpet, I'm trying to reassure you that the MMW scanner is, in the radio world, no big deal.

    Disclaimer: x-ray is different. None of my comments above apply to the backscatter machines - they SHOULD be tested as they are not similar enough to other technology and because it is common wisdom that ionizing (x-ray) radiation is cumulative and should be avoided.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.

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