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Thursday , 30 May 2024

Europe may ban back-scatter airport scanners

Controversial back-scatter airport scanners, currently used widely in the US and Manchester, UK, could be withdrawn if serious health concerns about them are confirmed. The scanners, also known as ‘naked’ scanners, because of the naked images they produce of air travellers being checked for security purposes, are expensive at £80,000 a piece. They have been in use since 2009 when a plot to blow up a transatlantic flight mid-air by concealing plastic explosives in the underwear was thwarted. The scanners which have also been tested in other parts of Europe such as Italy, Holland, Germany, France, and Finland, have come under scrutiny following new information received by the European Commission that they could cause long term health problems such as cancer. The scanners give a ‘naked’ image of a passenger’s body by sending ionising radiation which penetrates beneath the skin and clothing. Privacy is also one of the issues due to which their use has been banned at Heathrow airport. Supporters of the use of the back-scatter scanners say that the security staff at the airports, analysing the images from the scanner, are seated in a separate room and are not allowed to see the passenger, thus maintaining anonymity of the passengers. The European Commission is expected to deliver its final ruling on the matter by March 2012.

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