UK introduced full-body screening in Heathrow airport

By EDRi · February 10, 2010

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Deutsch: [UK führt Ganzkörperscanner am Flughafen Heathrow ein |]

As announced in January 2010, UK has begun developing a programme of
introducing full-body scanners in airports, starting with Terminal 4 of
Heathrow airport and Manchester airport.

BAA, the biggest UK airport operator, said its staff had been trained in
behavioural profiling to spot out unusual attitudes in the passengers such
as nervousness or agitation as going through the terminal. The passengers
could also be flagged up to security staff by the information on their
boarding cards stated BAA which took this opportunity to emphasize that
sensitive intelligence data were necessary in airports in order to support
such security measures.

Thus, certain passengers would be subject to further checks, including
full-body scanning or further questioning. Heathrow’s Terminal 4 has
been chosen because it is used by a number of transatlantic airlines.

UK government intends to create a no-fly list similar to that in the US
including terror suspects that would be prohibited from entering the UK as
well as a list with airline passengers who should be subjected to further
security screening before boarding UK-bound flights.

The airport group is using two different technologies, one that employs
“back-scatter” technology exposing travellers to low-level x-rays already in
use at Manchester airport and a second one that bounces radio waves off the
human body to form a 3D image.

Although both types of technology raise serious privacy concerns, BAA
assures that there is software obscuring certain elements of the images and
that the images obtained by the scanners are immediately deleted and cannot
be transferred, saved or printed.

Lord Adonis, UK Transport Secretary, said a code of practice would prevent
selecting people on the basis of race, gender or age. Also the passengers
would be given the right to be inspected by a person of the same sex, the
inspector seeing the screened images will not see the passengers and the
images would be destroyed right after the screening.

During a meeting on 27 January on the matter, MEPs in two committees, Civil
Liberties and Transport, discussed different aspects on the issue.

British Member Brian Simpson, chair of the transport committee said: “we
want to make travel as safe as humanly possible but people who believe that
body scanners are the answer, live in cloud cuckoo land”.

Many doubts were expressed related to privacy issues, the efficiency of the
technology as well as the costs and changes involved. Concerns were
expressed on whether materials with a low density, such as powder, liquid or
thin plastic could be revealed by the millimetre waves.

A German TV program demonstrated that full body scanners may be able to
reveal a personal cell phone, a knife and intimate details such as breast
implants, but may fail to detect objects that can be used to build a bomb.

The issue is being discussed by MEPs with the European Council and
Commission during the European Parliament Strasbourg plenary session and the
European Commission is presently working on proposed EU-wide legislation and
will issue an impact evaluation report in the next weeks.

MEPs voice doubts on body scanners (28.01.2010)

Full-body scanners already in use at Heathrow airport, says BAA (2.02.2010)

Passengers who refuse scanner face flying ban (1.02.2010)

Full Body Scanner FAILS To Detect Bomb Parts During Demonstration

EDRi-gram: EU considers full body screening in airports (13.01.2010)