The TSA Will No Longer Get to See You Naked

A good tip when it comes to PR strategy: Whatever the Transportation Security Administration is doing, do the opposite.

The organization may claim to do everything in the interest of keeping people safe, but the public generally detests the TSA for requiring us to take our shoes off and stand in front of the infamous full-body scanner in order to board a plane. The fact that said scanners produced all-but-naked images of travelers felt like an invasion of privacy to many Americans, and some politicians even set up their own PR stunts in order to protest being subjected to the whole process.

Well, last week we heard about what may be the TSA’s biggest recent PR win–though it certainly didn’t happen at the group’s request. In short, it looks like the era of “naked” full-body scans is coming to an end. We have a feeling the TSA’s PR agency of record breathed a sigh of relief upon learning that the organization, under pressure from a new law to develop scanners that produce less intimate images of travelers’ bodies, announced that its partner in scanning Rapiscan Systems would not be able to update the relevant software in time. The org even blogged about it!

Of course, this is by no means an end to the TSA’s ongoing PR problem.

The full-body scanners will be “removed” and stored “until they can be redeployed to other mission priorities”.  Controversy settled…for now.

TSA quickly pointed a finger at the manufacturer–but can we all agree that these machines, however necessary they may have been, amounted to a big failure in public relations terms? Could the TSA have more effectively “sold” them to the public?

And now that the offensive, NC-17 artifacts are gone, what can the TSA do to counter the fact that Americans don’t much care for the organization or what it does? If you, as a member of the public, were advising the TSA, what sort of PR moves would you suggest?