Airport Security Scanners Are More Likely To Flag People With Certain Hairstyles

A troubling new report has found that women of color and travelers wearing turbans may be more likely to set off airport security scanners.

The study was published by ProPublica and claims that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) body scanners frequently flag certain people for additional screening due to their hairstyles or religious headwear.

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However, the scanners aren’t programmed to specifically differentiate between passengers based on race or religion. Instead, the technology has trouble figuring out how to interpret turbans or hairstyles like braids, afros, or wigs. As these hairstyles are often worn by women of color, this means that they are frequently targeted for additional inspections.

According to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, federally funded programs are prevented “from discriminating — even unintentionally — on the basis of race, color or national origin.” In response to the report, the TSA has acknowledged the issue and has reportedly asked the companies that make its body scanners to work on solving the technical problem.