Full-body scanners operating in 19 U.S. airports can store and export captured images, says a U.S. privacy group, contradicting statements by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
The revelation came a day after Transport Minister John Baird said 12 full-body scanners will be arriving in airports across Canada this week.
The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained five documents from the TSA, including technical specifications and vendor contracts for Whole Body Image devices, through a freedom of information lawsuit filed last November.
A guide to imaging technology on the TSA's website says: "All machines have zero storage capability." Similar statements have been made by TSA officials.
"These documents clearly refute what the TSA has told the public about privacy," said Marc Rotenberg, EPIC executive director.
Among EPIC's key findings is the TSA machine's capability to store, record, and transfer images while operating in "test mode."
"I'm very skeptical that it's not possible to switch the machine into test mode," Mr. Rotenberg said. "I would be surprised if these features cannot be enabled on site."
The documents even reveal details about the TSA's request to potential vendors for a number of hardware specifications, including USB integration, Ethernet connectivity and hard disk storage.
"When they [TSA]tell the public it can't store information ... What are these [specifications]used for? Decoration?" Mr. Rotenberg said.
However, Mathieu Larocque, a spokesman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, said the scanners Canada plans to use will not be able to store captured images.
"Additional hardware is required to enable the storage capacity of images … we have no intentions of purchasing this hardware."
In total, CATSA will oversee 44 full-body scanners, all of which will use millimetre wave technology - the same technology found in the scanners south of the boarder.
The TSA says it is committed to ensuring the privacy of the travelling public to the greatest extent possible, and claims the technology used in their scanners is part of their "multi-layered" security strategy to stay ahead of evolving threats.