The European Parliament says no to airport body scanners
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MEPs will not support the European Commission plans to include body scanning
procedures within the airport security systems.
The new system planned by the European Union to be introduced in airports
allows security personnel to see an outline of passengers’ bodies beneath
their clothes, in order to detect concealed objects more easily. The
resulted image is similar to that of the naked body. The system already
works in several US airports and has been tested in EU as well, in
countries such as UK and the Netherlands.
In MEPs’ opinion, the measure is “equivalent to a virtual strip search” and
“has a serious impact on the right to privacy…and personal dignity”.
British Conservative Philip Bradbourn MEP said that such scans “were a grave
violation of the right of privacy and a degrading measure”.
Therefore, the MEPs intend to block the approval of the European Commission
plans in this matter and, in a resolution passed on 21 October 2008, asked
the Commission to carry out a fundamental rights impact assessment and to
consult the Fundamental Rights Agency and the European Data Protection
Supervisor. They also asked the European Commission to obtain medical
expertise on the possible health risks of the technology.
“Travellers need to know exactly what the images display, their right to opt
for an alternative search, and how they can have confidence that intrusive
and sensitive images will not be misused. Although claims are made that the
images are not of photographic quality, they seem to be quite explicit about
portrayal of genitalia and intimate medical details like breast implants and
colostomy bags” said Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford who also added:
“Fears arise about the images finding their way into the press and onto the
internet, maybe through payment to employees, unless bans on storage are
Irish MEP Mary Lou McDonald also considered the measure as “unnecessary,
unjustified and invasive” and commented: “Much controversy has surrounded
the introduction of body scanners into U.S. airports, and here in Europe
there is neither appetite nor agreement on introducing the technology into
member states.(…) International human rights and civil liberty groups
have described body scanners as ‘shameful, undignified and demeaning’. The
idea that any member state parliament would subject its young and elderly to
such an inappropriate experience when travelling is difficult to
The resolution supported by a majority of MEPs said all aviation security
measures, including body scanners, should “respect the principle of
proportionality as justified and necessary in a democratic society”.
MEP Philip Bradbourn said the technology should not be used routinely on
passengers, but could be introduced when suspicions are raised. “There may
be some benefit in having body scanners in our airports, but they should be
a last resort and a substitution for a strip search, not a random sample of
innocent holiday-makers,” he said.
The European Commission, in its turn, stated that the legislation backing
the introduction of the scanners would observe safety and privacy rules and
added that the passengers objecting to the procedure could be offered an
alternative form of security check.
The Parliament expects a response in this matter from the Commission in a
MEPs against body scans & pirates (24.10.2008)
European airports will not get ‘strip search’ body scanners after MEPs
refuse to support plans (23.10.2008)
EU lawmakers criticize virtual strip search (21.10.2008)
EDRIgram – The European Union wants to introduce virtual body screening in