TSA to roll out less intrusive scanners

The software, called Automatic Target Recognition, or ATR, displays only a generic stick-figure image, rather than the actual outline of the traveler being screened. And instead of a security officer in another room looking at the image — a step TSA took before to make sure no one was feeling ogled — the passenger can check out the cartoonish abstraction alongside the security officer at the checkpoint.

An image only pops up if there’s something unusual detected on the body — otherwise there’s just a big green screen that says “OK” — and said anomalous area is highlighted on the stick-figure. TSA Administrator John Pistole explained today at a House subcommittee hearing that this technology has pros and cons. A ponytail, for example, might be pinged as an unusual shape and cause that person to step out of line. But, on the plus side, said ponytailed person could then look at the image and clear the whole mystery up pretty quickly, avoiding an unnecessary pat down.