If you’re planning on flying from any British airport, better get comfortable with the idea of a stranger looking at you naked.
That’s the new rule which went into effect at airports across the United Kingdom at the beginning of February, even as three dimensional body scanners were just being brought online.
Not even children are exempt.
Not all passengers will be affected, however. British publication Daily Mail noted that the new transportation security rules would only mandate a body scan for a small percentage of passengers.
British Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said in a Feb. 1, 2010 statement to parliament that a strict code of conduct would govern how nude images of passengers are handled. However, he contended, “given the current security threat level, the Government believes it essential to start introducing scanners immediately.”
“The Department for Transport has published an interim code of practice for the scanners,” the Mail reported. “The officer operating the machine never sees the image, and the employee viewing the scan must be in another room. The scan cannot be saved, printed or transmitted. Passengers can also demand that only officers of their sex see their image.”
The high-tech body scanners can detect hidden objects, such as explosives, even when they are concealed by clothing, unlike the metal detectors passengers walk through in airports worldwide to access flight gates.
The scanners are already online at the Heathrow and Manchester airports. A third, Birmingham, will begin using the scanners next month, the Mail added.
A prior prohibition against forcing minors to step into the scanners has been removed, the report noted. The scanners had once been snagged in British laws against child pornography, though the Mail’s report does not detail how the roadblock was overcome.
“The image generated by the body scanner cannot be stored or captured nor can security officers viewing the images recognize people,” the head of Manchester airport’s customer service told the BBC.
The British Department of Transportation published a Code of Practice for operation of the scanners, available here. Some selection criteria were not published, The Register noted, because it details allegedly “sensitive” security information.
In the United States, 19 airports already use body scanners and more are expected to purchase the technology in the wake of a failed bombing attempt aboard a Christmas Day flight into Detroit.
“The US alone has 450 airports with about 2,000 security lanes, which gives an idea of the potential” of the market, said Joe Reiss, a spokesman with American Science and Engineering (ASEI), one of the world’s four leading makers of full-body scanners, in an interview with AFP.
The other manufacturers are two US companies, L-3 Communications and Rapiscan Systems, a unit of OSI Systems, and British rival Smiths Detection.
Shares in all the body scanner manufacturers world wide skyrocketed following the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt.