Passengers refusing body scan to be barred from flights

Candy Bellinger

The fall out from 9/11 and now the failed Christmas Day bomb attack continues as full body scanning equipment began operating at Heathrow and Manchester airports yesterday. And despite widespread condemnation from civil liberties campaigners, air passengers who refuse a full body scan will be prevented from boarding their flights.

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The scanners, which act like a radar device, are able to "see" beneath ordinary clothing and campaigners see this as an invasion of privacy. According to The Equality and Human Rights Commission the scans breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act for naked images. Exemption for under-18s, originally in place during trials of the machines, has since been overturned by the Government.

The Department for Transport claims that the code of practice currently in place will mean that privacy is not an issue, since the images cannot be saved, printed or transmitted. Sarah Barrett, head of customer experience at Manchester airport, insisted that, contrary to popular belief, "the equipment does not allow security staff to see passengers naked."

Which begs the question, why is it that passengers can demand that only a same-sex officer is allowed to see their image?

And Transport Secretary Lord Adonis added "only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning". But surely this will further open the door for discrimination, much as the stop-and-search policy (recently ruled illegal by the European court of human rights) did in the wake of the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks.

Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, told the Daily Mail: "What kind of a free society does the Government think it is 'protecting', when it invades our privacy like this? When we are forced to expose ourselves at the airport in order to go on holiday, the terrorists have won."

Let us know what you think. Are full body scanners a necessary inconvenience bearing in mind today's terrorist threat, or are our civil liberties threatened by this invasion of privacy?