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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

The EU has introduced a new legislation that gives airports the permission to install and use security scanners in any and all airports. You know, those machines that virtually strip you down before you fly?

They are already in use in a number of European and UK airports and they certainly have been getting a lot of talk since they were introduced. The European Commission has proposed to regulate their use just a few days ago which should come into force by the beginning of December, just in time for holiday travel to pick up.

Consider this scenario

Body scanner gun

Passengers and crew member (including pilots) will be selected randomly to undergo the “body scanner treatment.” You are chosen while in line to get through security and catch your flight from London. Drats. There are two ways to react to the situation:

  • You comply because you believe that safety is more important than your comfort.
  • You refuse because you believe the scanners violate your privacy.

The right to refuse

According to the new legislation, passengers will have the right to refuse. However, you will not entirely escape alternative methods of control imposed on you by a nearby security guard. We’re talking a very intimate and extensive pat-down since your initial refusal has no doubt raised suspicion.

Anonymous and confidential

In theory all of your data with be just that, anonymous and confidential,

“The security scanners will not be able to store, copy, print or retrieve images.”

This was announced by the European Commission, to ensure you don’t find images of yourself where they’re not supposed to be. But it’s not so convincing. It was just last year that American journalists managed to get their hands on a number of the scans, which was apparently deemed “impossible” by American authorities.

We respect your comfort, as much as possible

Scanner screen

Invading your personal space for the sake of safety, yes, but not without putting you out of your comfort zone. Officers in charge of image analysis will be located in a separate location to prevent any direct contact with passengers. Are body scanners just a virtual strip search? You can only imagine the conversations taking place in the screening room between agents…

Freedom vs security

What do they say?

Pros: With memories still fresh from the attempted bombing of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25, 2009 it’s clear that strict security is needed. The bomb was hidden in this terrorist’s underwear which proves that there are gaps in security measures and we need to step it up if we are to prevent these types of situations from occurring, even if it means infringing on someone’s privacy.

Cons: Zero risk doesn’t exist. We instil fear to justify the strengthening of security to control a nation’s citizens. Security must not infringe on a person’s basic human rights or freedoms. In addition to this, it is expensive and only creates the illusion of security.

Health risks

In the future the EU has plans to ban any and all X-Ray scanners due to the potential health risks related to exposure to radiation, “Other technologies, like the use of mobile phones and others, may be used only if they meet the safety standards stipulated by the European Union.”

Scanners used in France and the UK have been tested and do not use X-Ray technology but instead radio waves, called T-Rays for terahertz. Like X-Rays they can also “undress” the body but do not present a health risk at all.

Who has them?

At the forefront of fighting terrorism, many airports in the USA are already outfitted with these body scanners and are now urging Europeans to do the same, quickly. The Old World seems to have succumbed to their demands, as Germany, France, Italy and the UK all have them into place at all major airports.

What’s your take on the body scanners, yay or nay? Why? 

Imgs: El_Enigma, Daquella / Flickr cc.

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