The European Union wants to introduce virtual body screening in airports

By EDRi · October 8, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

A draft European Commission regulation has in view the introduction of
millimetre wave imaging scanners in airports to be used “individually or in
combination, as a primary or secondary means and under defined conditions”.
The scanner will provide a “virtual strip search” of travellers within the

The regulation is meant to be introduced in all the EU countries by the end
of April 2010. The new technology creates an image of an unclothed body. The
system has already been tested on a voluntary basis at Heathrow’s Terminal

The procedure involves the beaming of electromagnetic waves of passengers
the result being a virtual three-dimensional “naked” image from
reflected energy. The black and white images obtained are alarmingly graphic
raising privacy concerns.

The European Union follows the example of the Unites States where scanners
have been used in New York and Los Angeles airports because the technology
shows body contours thus revealing any possible hidden objects such as guns
or knives.

The draft regulation has raised a lot of concern from the privacy advocates.
“I don’t think people are aware of what these scanners can do and how
demeaning it is to have your body on display. Heathrow was right to
discontinue their use and they should not be used in Britain except as an
alternative to strip searches” said Gareth Crossman, Director of Policy at
Liberty. In his turn, Tony Bunyan, the editor of Statewatch, believes the
technology would subject “people including women, old people and children to
such a shameful and undignified experience” adding: “It would appear that
this is yet another case of ‘if it is technologically possible it should be
used’ without any consideration of proportionality, privacy and civil

Concerns over the safety of the new technology to be introduced have also
been expressed. Paolo Costa, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport
Committee wrote a letter to the Commission in which he addressed several
questions related to the procedure such as whether the technology is safe
from the health point of view or the way in which the images will be stored
and destroyed.

UK Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve wanted to emphasise the fact that,
even if the scanners may prove to be effective security instruments, the UK
government has to take into consideration first the UK security requirements
“rather than the dictates of Brussels” and that the implementation must be
done “in a proportionate manner”. “Ministers need to explain publicly and
transparently what these proposals are and why they are suitable to the UK”
he added.

Another concern was expressed by Timothy Kirkhope, a Conservative Euro-MP
from the transport committee who is worried that the new security
regulations may be introduced without discussions or without consulting the
public. “It must not be the case that unelected Commission officials, or
security bureaucrats, can introduce these measures without elected MEPs or
MPs being able to anything about it,” he said.

Commission Regulation of supplementing the common basic standards on civil
aviation security laid down in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 300/2008

ACLU Backgrounder on Body Scanners and “Virtual Strip Searches” (6.06.2008)

Paolo Costa’s letter to the European Commission (26.09.2008)

EU to introduce ‘virtual strip searches’ at airports by 2010 (1.10.2008)