The Bodyscanner Debate Goes On

By | Category: Travel rumblings

On the face of it, the use of bodyscanners to deter terrorists or, to put it another way, to make us feel that we are as protected as possible when we fly, is something that few would argue with. But all is not simple and there are many justifiable objections to them, not the least of which is privacy. And health risks. And whether the machines work.
Recently EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center, a US body took a lawsuit against the US Marshals Service which is the authority that runs the machines. As a result of this they were able to find that body images were being kept despite assurances to the contrary. They have received 100 images of undressed individuals (as they put it) which is a sample of the 35,000 that the US government has admitted to having. AS EPIC says, this proves that the machines can store images. We, as travellers, were told none would be kept. The Department of Homeland Security documents released as a result of this show that the department instructed its officers to store and transmit images. Again, we as travellers were not told this. Now EPIC is returning to court to stop the scanners being introduced elsewhere.
A Las Vegas company, Flying Pasties Inc, is now producing patches you can cover the more private parts of your body with. Why? If they stop the officials checking you all they are going to do is slow things down while they ask you to remove them!
At the same time, it appears that it takes 5 times as long for a person to go through the machine as it does going through the normal metal detector according to a report in US Today. We were told that there would be no real increases in time so, if true, this has implications for security lines and how long we turn up before a flight.
The EU, some countries in the Middle East like Dubai and others who haven’t publically said so, is concerned by the side effects on our health. Some have argued that because most of us travel rarely, any effect would be minimal. But what about frequent travellers? Having been lied to once by the US authorities, can you believe them when they say there is no problem?
Finally there is the issue of whether they work. The same department has admitted, according to Travelmole, a travel industry newsletter, that they don’t know whether the system would have detected the person who tried to blow up a jet bound for Detroit last Christmas Day.
I don’t know the answers nor do most passengers. We just want something that works, is safe and doesn’t make travelling any less disagreeable than it already is. But who do we believe?

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