"It's a high-tech strip search," the ACLU's Bibring said. "Blurred images of someone's face can be undone by computer. The most important issue is no image retention. That is absolutely crucial for such an invasive technology to satisfy privacy concerns. We need to make sure it is implemented in a foolproof manner."
Bibring also questioned whether scanners were a good use of the TSA's resources, considering there is no indication that pat-down searches aren't effective.
Melendez said the images in question are not as revealing or detailed as some critics have made them out to be. He said the complaints were based on old images from a different technology used in Phoenix early last year that produced more detailed pictures.
"First and foremost, we have done a lot of work with industry and other groups to address the issues related to whole-body images," Melendez said.
"We would not have put the technology in place if we could not protect the privacy of passengers."
TSA officials in Los Angeles said they would study the machine's effectiveness, as well as privacy considerations, training requirements, safety issues and public perceptions. They added that there was no end date for the pilot project.
The machines are operating at airports in Britain, Spain, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Thailand and the Netherlands.
Calista Harcourt, 23, a tourist visiting L.A. from Australia, said she didn't understand the fuss.
"I think it's fine," she said. "If they're not going to distribute the images and they're not storing it, and they're just using it for security purposes, I think it's OK."
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