There's a piece up on CNN.com about privacy advocates arguing against the whole-body imaging machines being test-driven in some airports. It seems more than a few people are creeped out by the possibility that unscrupulous airport personnel might be getting their jollies from or otherwise exploiting the images. Most notably, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has introduced legislation to ban the screeners altogether.

As with any system, there's the possiblity of abuse. But I came away from the piece impressed by the steps taken thus far to cut down on funny business: images are blurred up, dramatically cutting down on the pervy thrill factor; faces are obscured altogether, making it less likely that such pics could pop up later and embarrass specific individuals (hey, if someone wants to send blurry naked pics of me around the web, as long as my face isn't visible, I'm not sure even my husband would be able to pick me out of a lineup. this is, incidentally, a strong argument for never getting a large, distinguishing tatoo); the system has no memory, meaning storage isn't an option, and images are automatically deleted, further reducing the likelihood of, let us say, repurposing; screeners work in pairs, with the person guiding passengers through the machine never seeing the images and the person viewing the images never seeing the passengers. There's also a rule against security personnel carrying cell phones or other recording devices into the screening room. This to me seems like the weakest of the precautionary links (cell phones seem to magically find their way into places they are not supposed to go), but it should serve as a deterrent for all but the most committed abusers.

Now, I'm not saying that a highly enterprising screener might not eventually figure out a way to fund his retirement by selling Tom Cruise's fuzzy images on ebay. On the whole, however, the existing safeguards seem solid. We should stay vigilant to ensure these measures remain in place, of course. But fighting to dismantle the system entirely? Probably a waste of resources in a society that, while mildly anxious about air safety, is also wildly impatient with any measure that threatens to make that travel less convenient. Whole body imaging, after all, is quicker than the traditional system of perfunctory metal sweeps paired with follow-up pat-downs.

Which raises another issue: For those concerned about the sexual opportunism of security personnel, a high-tech screening seems considerably preferable to a good old-fashioned grope. In a perfect world, of course, we would need no such intrusions. But, as things stand, if I've got to pick my kink, I'm voting for the hands-off option.

--Michelle Cottle