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Australia Transportation Security News

In German Trials, Airport Body Scanners Easily Confused 91

Posted by timothy
from the bitte-to-be-straightening-dein-pleats-maedchen dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "The German government just finished a 10-month test of millimeter-wave body scanners made by L3 Communications. It appears they are not happy with the results. The devices raise false alarms 7 times out of 10, and are confused by layered clothing, boots, zippers, pleats, and even incorrect posture. Australia recently started a trial, and the second person in at the Sydney airport set off the alarm repeatedly due to sweaty armpits."
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In German Trials, Airport Body Scanners Easily Confused

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  • Ballmer (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday August 06, 2011 @04:30AM (#37005484) Homepage

    sweaty armpits

    Now you will never be able to deport Ballmer. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Raise the stakes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The only thing to do when faced with one of these is to strip naked on the spot. Fuck 'em.

  • I was going to point out the repeated paragraph as an example of unintended "backscatter".
  • by am 2k (217885) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @05:06AM (#37005654) Homepage

    As far as I understand, the primary (and probably only) purpose of those scanners is to make their manufacturers a buttload of money. I think they're doing that perfectly fine, so it's definitely a success!

    • by hitmark (640295)

      Well the installation of them at airports allow said places to give the impression that they are doing something regarding those "scary terrorists". But yes, most of it is snake oil salesmen making it big on a assumed epidemic.

      • by am 2k (217885)

        Well, it seems to work pretty effectively for that [criticalthinking.org.uk], too.

      • by Haedrian (1676506)

        I think I should start a company which sells metal doorways with the words "Scanner" written on them. They won't do anything, but I'll make a packet.

      • Well the installation of them at airports allow said places to give the impression that they are doing something regarding those "scary terrorists".

        Yes, but that's not the purpose, that's just the mechanism to get the public to accept their tax money being used to provide handouts to the manufacturers.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      uh huh huh you said buttload.

    • Bush's original apointee to head the Department of Homeland Security is on the board of the company that produces the scanners. He says this has nothing to do with them going into airports.
  • I was stopped because they thought I was trying to smuggle a baby elephant in my pants.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday August 06, 2011 @06:12AM (#37005924) Journal

    Brings a whole new meaning to the term "sweating bullets", I guess.

    -jcr

  • if so, i would find it interesting to see how the united states addressed the false positive issue.

    • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @07:26AM (#37006224)

      The Euro/Aus scanners don't show the direct image. It is processed to separate the "normal" (clothes and body) from "abnormal" (weapons), and then displays the "abnormal" against a generic silhouette. The idea is that the scanners will be easier to introduce into countries with stronger privacy laws/culture than the US. However, it seems to be fooled by variations in bodies and clothing.

      TSA systems have human operators interpret the images directly. They quickly get used to ghosting and artifacts and stop issuing false positives. However, tests (official and otherwise) show that they also fail to detect actual weapons.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I wonder if this is a technology or a human issue.

        Humans simply aren't good at staring at a sea of harmless stuff and then spotting something dangerous.

        I remember reading about a company that came up with an x-ray machine that had a game of sorts built into it. The scanner would periodically put a picture of a gun or a knife or whatever in the actual images of baggage, and the operator had to push a button to remove it. If the operator missed something then it would alert the supervisor to change out the

        • Humans simply aren't good at staring at a sea of harmless stuff and then spotting something dangerous.

          That seems to be it. Lots of false-alarms, few actual threats, is going to be difficult for either humans or machines.

          Finally - this thing talks about mm waves - but I thought that the machines in the US were backscatter x-rays?

          Doesn't the US use both? (Google says Wikipedia says LAX and SFO both have mm-wave scanners, so does the Trans-Hudson (PATH) train.)

      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        detecting weapons is overrated.

    • by d0nju4n (807508)
      That's where the "random" pat-down comes in to play.
  • As if these scanners needed to be more fun to play with [xkcd.com].
  • I don't have a position on whether these scanners are better or worse than the alternatives, but a 70% false positive rate is not necessarily a bad thing. What people forget is that false positive/false negative rates are dependent on the underlying rate of occurrence of the phenomenon you're looking for. Say you create a test for a disease that has a false positive rate of 0.1% for people who don't have the disease (which is excellent!). If the disease is extremely rare, say 0.1% occurrence rate in the po
    • by NixieBunny (859050) on Saturday August 06, 2011 @08:00AM (#37006492) Homepage
      I think the rate of actual terrorists is .000000001%, so essentially all positives are false positives.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's terrorist talk there buddy.
        You and your false sense of security will kill us all.

    • by mseeger (40923)

      According to what i read in the local newspapers here in Germany, the systems raised an alarm at 7 out of 10 people passing through them.

      • According to what i read in the local newspapers here in Germany, the systems raised an alarm at 7 out of 10 people passing through them.

        Sounds about right. They're probably American machines. Most of the people in a German airport would be Germans. Thus foreigners to the machine's inbuilt intelligence and worthy of a beep or two.

        GO USA!

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          Oh please. Everybody knows nothing is manufactured in the U.S.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)
            I thought that Micro$oft were one of the US's biggest companies exporting huge-amounts of US-manufactured Fear (TM), Uncertainty(TM) and Doubt(TM).
  • I've only taken one trip since the new bodyscanners, but the first time through, I got hit with a false positive. The source of the problem: I was wearing cargo pants, with the pockets on the sides, and the bodyscanner couldn't see past the pocket. So I was taken aside, and given a manual pat-down in addition to the bodyscanner.

    Glad I showed up early to the airport that day. These things just contribute to the delay of taking a flight.

  • sweaty armpits in the close confines of an airplane *is* terrorism.
    he should not be allowed to board :)

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