Travel News > February 2010 > Full body airport scanners may be illegal

Full body airport scanners may be illegal

23/02/2010

Airport scanners that produce naked images of passengers may have to be withdrawn from Heathrow and Manchester airports if claims by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that they unlawful are upheld.

The commission has written to the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis claiming that the scanners may be breaking discrimination law as well as breaching passengers' rights to privacy.

The x-ray type scanners were re-introduced at Heathrow and Manchester following a failed bomb attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day last year.

They have caused controversy as, unlike older scanners, they are able to 'see' through clothing to produce naked images of passengers as they pass through. This prevents passengers being able to hide explosives and weapons under their clothing, but it has caused concern for privacy rights campaigners.

A Bollywood actor recently caused consternation when he told TV chat show host Jonathan Ross that he had signed a photograph of a naked image of himself produced by the scanner. It was later revealed that he was joking as scanners don't print or store images.

As an added protection for passengers, operators viewing the images produced by scanners are in a remote location so they cannot identify people by their images.

The government plans to roll out the x-ray machines to all UK airports, unless they are blocked by human rights activists.

Not all passengers will be scanned but security officials will select those they believe are acting suspiciously. Although children were exempt under earlier trials this is no longer the case and passengers who refuse to be scanned will be barred from boarding their flights.

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