X-Rated X-Ray Invades Privacy Rights

Published date01 December 2001
Date01 December 2001
Subject MatterJournal Article
X-Rated X-Ray Invades
Privacy Rights
Michael C. Murphy
Langston University at
Oklahoma State University, Tulsa
Michael R. Wilds
Northeastern State University at
Oklahoma State University, Tulsa
X-rated X-ray machines utilizing backscatter technology arestrip-searching unsus-
pecting travelers as they pass through our nation’s border and airport checkpoints.
These machines not only check for explosives, drugs, or other contraband, but also
are capable of counting hairs on a man’schest or measuring the depth of a woman’s
navel. At the same time the machines are checkingfor contraband, they can produce
an X-rated image comparable in quality to those found in Playboy magazine. This
article focuses on the efficacy of the device,the need to protect society, and individual
privacy rights in light of the boundaries provided by Fourth Amendment search and
seizure laws. Supporting arguments advanced for use of backscatter technology
include (a) the enhanced security to society, (b) reduced invasivenessof the search,
and (c) the reduction in health risks associated with the use of the devices. Opposing
arguments focus upon the slippery slope and unacceptable degreeof intrusion upon
the privacy rights of the individual. The article concludes by framing the legal argu-
ments within an analysis of the opportunity costs associated with implementation of
the X-rated X-ray devices.
Scientific advances in technology are rapidly rendering traditional barriers
of privacyobsolete. For example, parabolic microphones can detect conver-
sations through closed windows from a distance of two blocks. Thermal
imaging can detect body images behind concrete walls. Vapor sensors can
detect alcohol on a driver’s breath from a distance of 3 feet. And most
recently, X-rated X-ray machines are strip-searching travelers as they pass
through customs and security checkpoints at our nation’s borders and air-
ports (Turay, 2000).
Using what is known as backscatter technology, these X-ray machines
project low-power doses of X-ray energy at travelers who are suspected of
Criminal Justice PolicyReview, Volume12, Number 4, December 2001 333-343
© 2001 Sage Publications

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