WASHINGTON — Misusing body scanner images would become a federal crime punishable by up to a year in prison under a proposal approved yesterday by the Senate, an attempt by lawmakers to address concerns raised by some travelers.
The amendment by Senators Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, and Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, to an aviation bill pending in the Senate was approved, 98-0. It would prohibit anyone with access to the scanned body images, whether security personnel or members of the public, from photographing or disseminating those images. Besides a prison term, violators could be fined up to $100,000 per violation.
The proposal would apply to images made by body scanners run by any federal employee, including security employees at airports and federal courthouses. It covers not only the misuse of the original images recorded by scanners, but also photographs of scans recorded and disseminated from personal cameras, cellphones, and video devices.
“We’re telling our constituents we’re not going to ignore their privacy in the process of making sure we have safe airports and federal buildings,’’ Nelson told the Senate.
Schumer said airline safety must be paramount but that it is possible to protect privacy without jeopardizing safety.
The Senate also rejected, 51-47, an amendment that would have barred airline screeners at the Transportation Security Administration from gaining union rights.