Flying pasties or flying bunk?

Bjorn Roche's picture

Friends don't let friends fly naked.
(Unless they are trying to make a buck)

 There's been a lot of controversy over the new "full body scanners" going in at airports across the country because they reveal a ghostly image of your naked body to the someone, in a different room. Even the american association for nude recreation has had their say. Not too long ago, a fight broke out between security officials because one walked through the scanner and the other saw enough to make fun of him. Whether they even work is another question, but clearly, these images are pretty revealing, no? How revealing? And do we need to protect ourselves from having these images seen or posted on the internet?

 Well, of course, there's a facebook group for everything. May they have the answer? Their mantra, in all caps, is this: "SCRAP THE CHILD PORN LAW VIOLATING, HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSING, CANCER-CAUSING, ELECTRONIC STRIP SEARCH AIRPORT SCANNERS!" Interestingly, those under 18 aren't allowed through these scanners in the UK, so they may have a point there. I haven't seen any evidence that the radiation exposure is worse than existing scanners (which also use x-rays) but you are allowed to request a pat-down. But it's really the super freaky image they use that group scares me, so I won't be looking there for answers...

 Of course, whatever side you are on, there is always an an intrepid entrepreneur with the answer. In this case the answer is in the form of pasties! Flying pasties! Pieces of Rubber you stick in your clothes to protect your "dignity"!

 "Flying Pasties are NOT your typical 'Pasty' or 'sticker'," the website says, "they are 2mm thick 100% rubber and are meant to obscure your private areas when you pass through airport scanners. No adhesive necessary!" Wow! um, do they work? "By purchasing from this site, you agree to the following statements: Flying Pasties does not guarantee it's effectiveness.  End user bears all personal responsibility for the use of our products." Wow, anti-security theater. Bad grammar and all.

Fake image used by FlyingPasties.com
-Still think this product is silly?
-That depends, can you verify your sources?
-Um, no.

 Of course, assuming that the density of the material is similar to the human body, there's reason to believe it might work. If that's the case, how do the machines detect explosives that are similar to the density of the human body? Right. They don't. The inventor relies on a single statement by a scientist at Cal tech, Peter Seigel to assure us it's going to do the trick: "The scanners do a good job seeing under clothing, but cannot see through plastic or rubber materials that resemble skin... You probably could find very common materials that you could wrap around you that would effectively obscure things." When asked to elaborate, Peter Seigel refused, so it's unclear what kind of plastic or rubber, how thick it needs to be or if any kind will do. Has it been tested? Does it work? We simply don't know, but it seems unlikely to have been tested. I agree with the inventor that it probably blurs things at the very least, but that's just a guess on my part.

 Functional or not, there are two reasons to be suspicious of this product: 1. If you watch the product's video you get the distinct sense that the product's spokesperson isn't so concerned about your privacy as he is about making you feel like you've protected your wife or daughter's "dignity". 2. The pictures shown on the website of what "your wife or daughter" could supposedly look like under the scanner are well known fakes.

 All-in-all, although the site targets a legitimate concern, it uses the same fear tactics used by pro-security types. The site is clearly targeting men who are afraid of having their wives and daughters seen naked more than it targets people who are actually having their privacy violated (which, of course, includes men). The site is dishonest about the amount of privacy invasion, and gives insufficient reason to believe their product even works.

 Soon we hope to review pasties with wings.

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