EU considers full body screening in airports

By EDRi · January 13, 2010

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Deutsch: [Die EU denkt über Ganzkörperscanner an Flughäfen nach |]

On 7 January 2010, a discussion tool place in Brussels on the necessity of
introducing full-body scanners in European airports. Some of the European
countries such as Italy, UK and The Netherlands had already announced their
intention to install such technology in their airports.

The US is pressing Europe on taking such additional security measures
following the reported attempt of a Nigerian man to blow up a U.S. airliner
flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on 2 January that full-body
screening would be introduced in British airports along with other
additional security measures. BAA, Britain’s main airport operator has
already ordered them for Heathrow airport . Heathrow and Manchester airports
have had trials using such equipment.

The introduction of full-body scanners might be in breach of child
protection laws and privacy campaigners and civil liberties groups also
argued the images created by the scanners were too graphic and called for
safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers and to ensure that the
images obtained would not end up on the Internet.

On 2 January as well, the Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said in
an interview to Corriere della Sera newspaper that he was in favour of a
rapid introduction of the body scanners. “We have the resources ready to
acquire them but we must overcome the opposition of European privacy
agencies,” said the minister.

Wolfgang Bosbach, the head of the German parliament’s Committee on Interior
Affairs, also announced on 2 January that he expected the body-scanners to
be introduced in the current year adding that the tests would probably start
in the next 6 months.

However, Klaus Jansen of professional police association Bundes Deutscher
Kriminalbeamter warned against over-confidence related to the scanners and
Petra Pau of the Left party also called the scanners a “security mirage”
which bring forth health, practical, and ethical issues. “A minimum wage for
security services would be a lot more effective than state-ordained
peep-shows,” she said in a statement.

The Dutch government also stated it would immediately begin using full body
scanners on flights to the United States in order to avoid such incidents as
the one on Christmas Day.

During the meeting on 7 January in Brussels, not all European countries were
in favour of introducing the technology. Spain expressed scepticism about
the need for body scanners, and the German and French governments still
preserve some reservations.

Etiennne Schouppe, the Belgium Secretary of State for transport considered
that such measures were excessive and that the present security measures
were strict enough. She also agreed on the necessity of having a united
approach of the European countries in the matter as expressed by Antonio
Tajani, European Commission Vice President: “We have to reach agreement
together with the (European) parliament and member states. It’s best to have
a European solution than having individual member states deciding on their

Privacy advocates and experts have shown concern related to the technical
effectiveness of body scanners. “Any security expert knows this is a red
herring, a diversion from the real issue,” said Simon Davies, director of
Privacy International who added: “The biggest failure in this case was a
failure of intelligence. That’s the Achilles heel of an effective
counterterrorism strategy.”

Privacy International (PI), while not against security measures that would
really enhance passengers’ protection, is concerned by the introduction of
unproven or intrusive technology and measures. The body scanners tested at
Heathrow airport over four years have resulted in a decision to interrupt
the scanner use.

In PI opinion, there are several concerning issues related to the body
scanners. They produce too graphic images of the passengers’ bodies
revealing intimate medical details. The organization is also sceptical
regarding the privacy safeguards applied by the US Transportation Safety
Administration (TSA) in relation to the scanned images.

The main issue is the effectiveness of the technology. “Our impression is
that a very high percentage of the passengers who opt for a scan will still
wind up being physically searched because officials will have trouble
distinguishing threatening objects from ordinary ones such as a wallet” says
PI. The scanners have not yet proven effective in case of liquid explosives
and cannot detect explosives hidden in body cavities.

Full-body scanners being ordered for airports, says Gordon Brown (3.01.2010)

New scanners break child porn laws (4.01.2010)

Italy aims to introduce body scanners: minister (2.01.2010)

Body scanners to come sooner than expected (3.01.2010)

Dutch to use full body scanners for US flights (30.12.2009)

Europe anxious about body scanner privacy (5.01.2010)

Europe Divided on Use of Body Scanners in Airports (7.01.2010),2933,582386,00.html

PI statement on proposed deployments of body scanners in airports

EDRI- gram: The European Parliament says no to airport body scanners