WASHINGTON — New software designed to make airport security scanners less intrusive debuted Tuesday at the Las Vegas airport, a response to last year's uproar from passengers who thought the blurry but revealing images were an invasion of privacy.
The machines now produce a gray, cookie-cutter outline of the human form. The silhouette appears on a screen about the size of a laptop computer that is attached to the scanning booth.
If a passenger is cleared by the scan, the screen flashes a green "OK." Suspicious items appear as little red boxes, showing their location on generic front and back silhouettes on the screen.
Passengers who trigger an alert, and anyone who refuses to go through the scanners, will receive the rigorous frisking that has drawn sharp objections.
The new software is expected to debut soon at Reagan National Airport in Washington and in Atlanta. If it does as well in the field as it has in testing, it could be installed in the 486 scanners now in use at 78 major airports, the Transportation Security Administration said.
"We believe it addresses the privacy issues that have been raised," TSA chief John Pistole said at a news conference at Reagan National Airport.
Robin Kane, head of the TSA's technology office, said once the less-invasive scanners are proven effective, then controversial monitors on which a TSA officer sees scans in a private room will be removed from all airports.