Are you ready to give up more privacy?

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In the wake of the Christmas attack on Northwest Flight 253, security experts are suggesting only our desire for privacy is preventing authorities from catching people like Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old who allegedly mixed an explosive cocktail to try to bring down the flight as it approached Detroit.

“There’s reports the TSA mandated the Dutch authorities not to use body screening,” Douglas Laird, told MPR’s Gary Eichten on Midday today. He’s an aviation security consultant and the former security director for Northwest Airlines.

The problem, Laird’s remarks suggest, is that Americans value their privacy and the body screening equipment basically strips a person.

Jay Stanley, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Program, said the machines essentially perform “virtual strip searches that see through your clothing and reveal the size and shape of your body.”

Jay Stanley, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Program, said the machines essentially perform “virtual strip searches that see through your clothing and reveal the size and shape of your body.”

The Star Tribune called privacy concerns “ridiculous” in a strongly-worded editorial:

Even more troubling is the extent to which privacy activists have been able to influence the political debate and restrict the use of whole-body imaging scanners in U.S. airports. To rally the opposition, the term “virtual strip search” has been used, conjuring images of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners huddled around computers ogling the most shapely passengers.

Laird is apparently unmoved by the privacy concerns:

“In February 1972, because of the ‘Take me to Cuba era,’ the government mandated that all passengers be screened,” he said. “Back then there was a hue and cry that this violated our civil rights blah, blah, blah. It also stopped the hijackings.”

Would images of “naked” passengers end up being circulated? Probably, Laird acknowledges. It happened in the UK.

But some manufacturers of body scanning equipment say privacy filters can blur “sensitive parts of the body.”

And the TSA says the people looking at the “naked” (if blurred) images, never see the actual passenger. The technology is in place at some U.S. airports. And since last weekend’s incident, the phones have been ringing at the manufacturer’s of the equipment.

Are privacy concerns about full-body scanning at airport checkpoints overstated?(polls)