scanners coming to Australia

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

  1. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    This is pretty much how I feel on the safety issue. "Suspicious by association". The logical, rational part of my brain accepts what RadioGirl says about the safety of the machines, but the irrational part of my brain is saying 'suspicious by association'.

    And then there's the lying. The TSA wouldn't know the truth if it came up and introduced itself and showed them its government-issued photo ID. They would lie about anything if they thought it was going to benefit them somehow. So no, I don't think they are lying about how the MMW machines work, but my irrational brain is asking 'what are they hiding?'
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  2. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Okay, but seriously if it's your "irrational brain" or Phoebe's "gut feel", what could they do now that would convince you they are safe (or at least, less dangerous than cell phones, WiFi, etc)?

    Hypothetical: suppose TSA submits their numbers to the FCC. Suppose FCC sends some engineers around and measure a NoS to confirm that the numbers are right. Suppose FCC does the calculations and says that the NoS emissions are orders of magnitude below the safety standard. Are you going to take their word for it, or will you claim it's just another part of the gov't covering up for the TSA?

    In post #32 above, I posted a link to a report from the FCC: here it is again. Report by the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (1999 - predates the NoS). There is a huge amount of useful information in that Report. For example it describes, in detail, that the exposure standards that I quoted above are for protection of human beings from negative health effects. It's simply not true to say that there are no standards for this.

    Furthermore, it says (emphasis mine),

    Translation: something as low-powered as the MMW scanner (or a WiFi access point, or a cell phone, or your keyless entry fob...) is not required by the gov't to be individually tested. It can be evaluated by calculation against the (health) exposure standard that is also contained in this report. It doesn't mean the equipment doesn't have to comply, it just means to doesn't have to be individually tested. Tests may be required, however, if someone has evidence that the transmitter is not complying.

    Now before you all claim this is a vast government conspiracy, I will point out that (a) Australia and Europe and Japan and every other major developed nation/region has identical requirements, (b) these requirements have been in place for decades - LONG before TSA and their NoS and (c) the requirements apply equally to equipment used by the government and equipment used by private industry or individuals. Furthermore, the health-related exposure limits in the report were not derived by the FCC, they were established by ANSI, IEEE (use Google) and others. And they are similar in every country in the world. And they have been in place for decades.

    You may be alarmed to hear this, but the laptop you're using, with its WiFi and Bluetooth components, has not been individually lab-tested against these human exposure standards. It did not sit in a lab for four years in front of a lab rat or human volunteer to see if they developed cancer. The model of laptop you are using did not undergo such tests. The brand of laptop you are using did not undergo such tests. Neither did the WiFi access point, or your garage door opener. Think, for a moment, how expensive your computer and cell phone and other electronic goods would be, and how much delay between design and production, if the gov't required exhaustive individual testing of every piece of electronic equipment you buy. Are you willing to pay 3 times as much (random estimate) for your laptop and cell phone, and wait 5 years longer for the technology improvements, to allow for the kind of testing you're requesting?

    Now we come to the MMW NoS. According to the FCC report (from 1999 - this was NOT done to sneak the NoS by without scrutiny), if the FCC is convinced that the power level from the MMW NoS is sufficiently low (and they are), then the individual equipment, the model of equipment, the brand of equipment, does not need to be individually tested. There is no option in the FCC legislation for "unless the people who buy the equipment have lied a lot in the past" or "unless the equipment will be used in an unconstitutional manner" or "unless the government is using the equipment." The US gov't has (justifiably!) been the butt of jokes for years about $500 hammers and $1500 toilet seats. One reason is that in many areas, there ARE separate, extreme, ridiculous standards that gov't procurement must meet. In demanding that the TSA test the MMW NoS beyond what is required by the FCC, you are encouraging this sort of gov't waste. Either all gov't equipment has to get this additional testing, or you are saying that the FCC should make judgement such as "this agency is full of liars so different rules apply to them" or "people don't like this equipment so different rules apply." I KNOW the TSA is full of liars; I KNOW we don't like the NoS, but I don't think those are reasonable grounds for making arbitrary distinctions in how the FCC evaluates radio equipment.

    Again, the x-ray is different. Competent, experienced, respected national authorities on ionizing radiation safety have said that the TSA has done the calculations wrong and that the x-ray scanner is not the same as "two minutes of flight." I am not aware of a single similar statement from competent experts in regards to the MMW. (Probably for the reasons I've given above - it meets the standard.)

    We're still in a thread about Australia. Australia has human health safety standards for radio emissions maintained by a group called ARPANSA. They also have a standard for the human health exposure standards to radiofrequency energy over the frequency range 3 kHz to 300 GHz which well and truly covers any MMW scanner. IT IS HERE. It gives a time-averaged value (Table 6) of 10 W/m^2 for General Population exposure, which is 10,000 milliwatts/m^2 or 1 mW/cm^2 which is the same number as from the FCC report that I quoted in post #32. If there's a vast conspiracy to cover up the fact that the MMW NoS exceeds safety standards, it must cover Australia as well.

    Why am I going on about this? This is going to become a big deal in Australia if and when the scanners are installed. I would really like to be able to point my colleagues, my friends, my neighbors, to this site for information about why (from the privacy, cost, effectiveness, efficiency, etc points-of-view) the scanners are a bad idea. Most of those colleagues and friends know a lot about RF safety (and the ones who don't know, ask me for advice). So repeated claims here that the "scanners must be dangerous because the TSA is hiding something" really detracts from the credibility of this community.

    Further, in chasing a miniscule "what if" chance that the FCC and the manufacturers are conspiring to cover up something, we sound like the TSA strip-searching Lenore Zimmerman because "you never know, she MIGHT be a terrorist; Bad Guys have used elderly women in the past." We (correctly) criticize the TSA for going too far "out of an abundance of caution"; we must not do the same.
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    You keep misconstruing the argument -- it's about standards, testing and certfication, none of which has happened. Show me the FDA standards on repeated exposure of humans to microwave radiation that is directed at and focused on them. Then show how the manufacturer has had the equipment tested and certified as meeting those standards.

    I could care less about anecdotal information on on dispersed radiation, etc. I want standards for the application that those machines are being used for and testing and certification that they meet those standards.

    And once again, I don't care if you think we look foolish to your friends -- we're not here to look cute & cuddly.

    If you can get the FDA & AMA (or equivalent authorities) to put a seal of approval on these machines, I'll accept it. Until then, you don't have something that you can honestly say is safe for humans.

    That fact that an organization full of pathological liars is involved certainly doesn't help matter any, but that's just icing on the cake.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  4. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Why does it need to be the FDA? Scanners are not a Food nor a Drug nor a medical device.

    The FDA does, in fact, have standards on certification requirements for high-powered microwave/RF devices (microwave ovens, diathermy, welders - things that in fact are designed to create so much energy that they heat a target). HERE. The FCC has standards (which I have quoted twice now) for exactly what you are requiring, the FDA has determined that lower-powered radio systems are not within their purview. But you can keep insisting that it should be the FDA rather than the FCC or ANSI or IEEE. Whatever...
    The FCC standard is for continuous exposure. It's a level based on the assumption that you're being exposed to it all the time. That's more than simply "repeated."
    And you keep misconstruing the facts. The fact that energy is directed at you must be considered in conjunction with how much power it is. You are (far) more likely to get sunburn by sitting outdoors on a sunny day than by someone shining a keyring LED flashlight at you from 2 inches away. The energy from the sun is omnidirectional and not directed just at you, it may even be scattered and refracted and still cause sunburn, while the energy from the LED is "directed and focused". But the energy emitted by the sun is many orders of magnitude higher than the LED flashlight. It doesn't matter that the LED is focused; the power is too small to do any damage.
    As I said to Sunny above, there is no requirement for manufacturers to do this. You may not like it, but the fact that the manufacturer has not done what the manufacturer is not required to do doesn't make this a conspiracy. I'd like the gov't to ensure that new operating systems are bug-free before companies are allowed to sell them, but my desire for that standard doesn't make it so. And at some point, this argument is veering very close to "I want the gov't to keep me safe at all costs."
    I don't believe I've supplied any anecdotal information; I have linked to websites with actual numbers. The fact that the standards are not written in the format that you want, or aren't as specific as you would like is just the way things are.
    No, but I thought you were here to look credible.
    Do you have an FDA seal of approval on your computer? Has the AMA certified your WiFi access point? Do you have access to the test results for the cell phone tower down the street, or the television station over the hill? Does everything that uses radiowaves in the proximity of humans need FDA/AMA approval, and do you need to be given all the test results that are required?
  5. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    I think that, just as we exhort people not to give in the irrational part of their brains in their willingness to do "Anything To Keep Us Safe," likewise we here shouldn't give in to the irrational part of our brains in our zeal to get rid of the abusive practices of the TSA.

    We want the scanners gone.

    I want them gone for privacy reasons. Even if they are all signed, sealed, and delivered as 100% safe everywhere all the time, I still want them gone.

    I believe RadioGirl about the MMW scanners. I believe her expertise. And I agree with her that it weakens our argument if we say we want them gone for safety reasons.

    And bottom line -- this is what the TSA will be trotting out in their propaganda someday, you can be sure of it: 'we got rid of the backscatter scanners; there is no radiation; the MMW scanners are safe; therefore, your objections no longer apply; shut up and get on with it.'

    We weaken our position if we insist on the safety argument. It will come back to bite us in the (expletive deleted).
    RadioGirl likes this.
  6. RB

    RB Founding Member

    The FDA put their Seal of Approval on Phenformin and Avandia.
  7. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    I'm with Lisa. Most, if not all, of us object on principle and so we must keep to that. Practical arguments can be shut down by "solving" the practical problem they focus on and obsessing over details. Principled arguments are much harder to dismiss. They have to be discredited (not looking likely as more and more people get pissed off at TSA) or ignored and swept under the rug (which can backfire horribly in the age of instant social media). The only other way to remove an argument from principle is to amend policy to bring it in line with the principle.

    I can see where both Mike and RadioGirl are coming from here. I definitely believe RG when she says MMW is safe. My own skeptical nature is appeased by the extent of her knowledge and experience. What rankles about TSA's approach is how they are telling people MMW is safe, not just that they're doing so.

    We ask RadioGirl, "Is MMW safe and if so, how and why?" and she responds with a crapload of technical detail and good explanations. That gives me no reasonable grounds to believe that MMW is dangerous.

    We ask TSA "Is MMW safe and if so, how and why?" and they respond with "It's safe because we say so, now shut up and get scanned." That gives me grounds to believe they're lying even if they're technically telling the truth. The response isn't designed to allay concerns, but rather to force compliance. The perceived (by the passenger) need (on the part of TSA) to force compliance rather than earning it harmoniously then translates to heightened suspicion of the form of compliance being sought - i.e. if they're being so pushy and evasive to get me into this thing, what aren't they telling me about it?

    And I agree about privacy reasons as well. I also don't believe ATR is the panacea they're pushing it as. To confirm I haven't been out of the loop or anything - we still believe ATR requires raw scans to be saved in order to calibrate and guarantee accuracy, right? If so, that perhaps makes it even worse due to an added layer of deceit. They're still nudie-scanning you and it's even more likely that your image is being saved, but they're putting the happy wrapper around it with their gingerbread-people outlines.
  8. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    It doesn't weaken our position one bit -- if something is wrong for two reasons, it can be resisted for two reasons.

    What part of standards, testing & certification is so hard to understand? RadioGirl suggests that might be applicable standards (I'm not convinced), but even if there are, that still leaves independent testing & certification.

    And people keep insisting on miscontruing this. We're not saying that MMW is unsafe. We're saying that MMW in this specific application and equipment has not been certified to be safe.

    I work as a principal engineer (that's my actual title) that for one of the largest manufacturers of industrial instrumentation. Our products aren't safe just because we say they are. There's a LOT more that goes into it, and the same diligence needs to to be demonstrated with regard to MMW Nude-O-Scoping.
    phoebepontiac likes this.

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