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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and police Chief George Gascon today announced an upgrade to security cameras at San Francisco International Airport and assured passengers that traveling there is safe.

At a news conference in the international terminal at SFO, Newsom and Gascon, along with Airport Director John Martin, said the high definition mega pixel upgrade to the cameras will help enhance the security checkpoints and perimeter of the closed-circuit television system.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Christmas Day attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

“We want to reassure the nearly 80,000 people who come through (the airport) daily that this is a safe facility,” Gascon said.

The number of cameras at the airport has increased significantly in the past decade, Newsom said, from 150 cameras 10 years ago to more than 1,000 cameras surveying the roadways, perimeter, baggage systems, terminal areas, passenger security checkpoints and other areas throughout the airport.

The new technology is funded by a $5 million grant from the Transportation Security Administration.

Newsom also advocated today for additional full-body screening at SFO, which was selected as one of 19 airports nationwide to test the technology in 2008.

Martin also said the screening system has been beneficial to SFO.

“The full-body screening system is the most effective security tool,” he said.

Newsom said he hopes more will be installed in the airport in the future.

“It’s the reality of this world that we need to use this technology to screen passengers,” Martin said.

He noted that there are a number of protocols in place to ensure passengers’ privacy when passing through the full-body checkpoints.

He said that the employees who review the images are not physically present where the screening takes place.

In addition, the images of passengers cannot be printed out, and after an image is taken, the next person who passes through the screening automatically erases the image of the person before.

There is also no facial recognition on the screening, Newsom said.

“The images will not be used and abused,” he said.

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  • Fred

    Some questions that still need to be answered:

    – What happens if no one new goes through the machine for a while? Is there a time limit after which the image is wiped?
    – Will the TSA employees viewing the images be prohibited from having cameras, including cell phones?
    – Do these scanners use ionizing radiation such as X-rays?