Monday, November 14, 2011

EU Adopts New Guidelines Re: Airport Body Scanners, Privacy Issues

The European Union (EU) on Monday (November 14) adopted a new set of guidelines governing the use of airport body scanners and privacy concerns that have delayed their use at airports across Europe. Commenting on the new protocols, Siim Kallas, the EU commissioner responsible for transport, said that under the rules the technology will only be used with strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights" "Security scanners are not a panacea, but they do offer a real possibility to reinforce passenger security," he emphasized.

The scanners, some of which produce nude-like images of passengers, are already used in the United States and elsewhere as a more effective method of screening passengers than metal detectors. Yet, scanner technology is developing rapidly and has the potential to significantly reduce invasive pat-downs. The latest machines are equipped with software that displays a generic outline of a human body, with a red box around the area where a passenger may be concealing an object.

COMMENT: In contrast to the US, EU member states and airports do not have an obligation to deploy security scanners, but if they decide to use them, they will have to comply with the operational conditions and performance standards set by the EU.

Under new legislation, security scanners must not store or copy any of the images, and the security staff analyzing the images will be located in a room separate from where the actual screening is conducted.

In addition, passengers must be informed and be given the right to choose an alternative method of screening.

Moreover, in order not to risk jeopardizing health and safety, only security scanners that do not use X-ray technology can be used at EU airports.

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