Full-body scanner trial at Manchester Airport
January 8th, 2010 by elisa

The number of people agreeing to have their bodies scanned by the full-body scanner being trialled at Manchester airport has risen from 72% to 92%, airport authorities have reported.

Passengers must stand between two blue boxes so that the scanner can produce a ghostly, almost-naked image which should show up anything suspicious underneath people’s clothes. The increase in those who are willing to comply with the Manchester trial appears to have happened shortly after the Detroit airline bombing on Christmas day.

Privacy campaigners opposed the scanner earlier in the week, stating that the images amounted to ‘virtual strip-searching’ and called for safeguards to be put in place to protect passengers’ privacy. It has also been reported that some Muslim women are concerned about this exposure as many choose to dress modestly as part of their lives and may not be comfortable with this level of personal exposure. They are urging the airport to consider having women-only operators viewing the images of Muslim women.

Airport workers point out that images are not stored and are deleted within moments of the image being captured and checked; they also point out that the images are totally anonymous. The image is viewed in a separate room away from the passenger and the security staff standing with them.

The government is taking steps towards changing EU policy so that these scanners can become compulsory at airports. If this happens then Manchester airport alone would need 19 of the RapiScan machines which cost £80,000 each. A huge amount, but a necessary one to avoid events like 9/11 perhaps?

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