EESC condemns body scanners as a breach of fundamental rights

By EDRi · February 23, 2011

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Deutsch: [EWSA missbilligt Körperscanner als Verstoß gegen die Grundrechte |]

On 16 February 2011, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
issued its opinion on the use of body scanners in EU airports.

The EESC has opposed the eventual adoption of any measures that would
introduce body scanners on an EU-wide level, and feel that the Commission
Communication on the use of security scanners does not respect three basic
criteria: necessity, proportionality and legality.

The document also criticises the Commission for changing the term “body
scanners” to “security scanners”, and outlines four central critiques with
regard to the Commission Communication, namely, proportionality, fundamental
rights, health risks and passenger rights .

The document urges the Commission to produce a thorough proportionality test
in order to determine the necessity of their implementation versus
alternative measures. The EESC suggests that the Commission seriously
consider alternatives and that it might be better to wait for more precise
and less intrusive technology which can recognise security hazards.

The EESC objects to the infringement of fundamental rights as a trade-off
for public security. The costs to fundamental rights are three fold:
personal privacy, data privacy and the right to human dignity. To further
underline the inherent risks, the document cites a case in a Florida airport
where 35 000 naked scans were recorded by officers and distributed on the

As there exists no code of best practices or conclusive proof that these
scanners do not pose health risks to individuals, the EESC requests that the
Commission provide a thorough scientific examination proving that passengers
and personnel who frequently fly will not be exposed to any health risks.

The Committee also reminded the Commission that its Communication did not
include guarantees of effective recourse for passengers and personnel
undergoing the scans, and also failed to include guarantees that passengers
will not obliged to undergo body scanning, ensuring individuals reserve the
right to ‘opt out’ while not suffering longer wait times, more intrusive
pat-downs, or be prevented from flying.

Body scanners are currently in a trial period in the EU, where
approximately 5 or 6 Member States have deployed the technology, including
the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, France and Italy (according to a press
release from 15 June 2010).

The Commission is convinced that a more harmonised approach to body scanners
is needed throughout the EU, thus it is likely that an EU legal framework on
the use of “security scanners” at EU airports will be produced sometime in
the near future.

EESC Opinion on Use of Security Scanners at EU airports (16-17.02.2011)

Body scanners? Not yet, says the EESC (17.02.2011)

Commission communication on body scanners (15.06.2010)

Commission Q&A on “security scanners” (15.06.2010)

EU aviation security FAQ (15.02.2010)

Technologies for the Use of Images: Automated Processes of Identification,
Behavioural Analysis and Risk Detection Control at the Airports by Douwe
Korff (06.2010)

Presentation by Douwe Korff (EDRi-member FIPR), at EESC Hearing “Use of Security Scanners at EU Airports” (11.01.2011)

(Contribution by Raegan MacDonald – EDRi)