Airport Body Scanners: EU Wants Strict Safeguards


Body scanners should be allowed at EU airports only if the health, dignity and privacy of passengers are protected, says the European Parliament in a resolution passed by a show of hands on Wednesday.

Parliament’s vote comes just ahead of an expected decision by the Commission to allow Member States to use body scanners at airports. Parliament will have the power to overturn that decision within three months.

MEPs accept that body scanners would enhance aviation security, but ask Member States “to deploy technology which is the least harmful for human health” and addresses privacy concerns. Due to health risks “scanners using ionising radiation should be prohibited in the EU”.

No discrimination

Selection for scanning should be random, without any discriminatory criteria, say MEPs, stressing that “any form of profiling based on, for example, sex, race, colour, ethnicity, genetic features, language, religion or belief is unacceptable”. Particular attention should be paid to the welfare of pregnant women, children, the elderly and the disabled, they add.

Right to opt for alternative screening

Passengers should have the right to refuse body scanning and opt for alternative screening methods that guarantee the same level of effectiveness while respecting their rights and dignity. “Such a refusal should not give rise to any suspicion of the passenger”, MEPs add. Parliament also asks Member States to supplement checkpoints and security staff, to ensure that passengers are not kept waiting.

No body images, no storage

To protect human dignity, privacy and intimacy, “only stick figures should be used” and “no body images may be produced”, stress MEPs. Moreover, the data “must be destroyed right after the person has passed through the security control and may not be stored”, and “the technology used must not have the capabilities to store or save data”.

Liquid ban should be lifted in 2013

The carry-on liquids ban must end in 2013, say MEPs, who urge Member States and airports to “ensure that adequate technology is available in good time” so that this does not undermine security.

Stricter checks on air cargo

The resolution also calls for better checks on air cargo, especially from non-EU countries, particularly when carried on passenger planes. Pointing out that “100% scanning of cargo is not practicable”, they ask the Commission to lay down criteria for determining “high-risk” cargo.

Security charges should be transparent and only cover security costs. Member States that impose more stringent measures should bear the resulting additional costs, says the resolution, which also recommends that every passenger’s ticket should show the cost of security measures. MEPs also call for mutual recognition of security measures and one-stop security checks, so that passengers, luggage and cargo at EU airports are screened only once.

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