With the UK government bringing in full body scanners at all UK airports to combat the risk of terror attacks, what are your rights if you are asked to have a full body scan before you board your flight?
The technology, which has been strongly condemned by civil liberties campaigners, has been on trial at Manchester and London Heathrow airports. For those that don’t know what a full body scanner does it is effectively a virtual strip search. Campaigners say the scanners, which act like a mini radar device ‘seeing’ beneath ordinary clothing, are an invasion of privacy. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the scanners breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act for their naked images.
There are, however strict rules in place regarding the full body scanners use. ‘The image generated by the body scanner cannot be stored or captured, nor can security officers viewing the images recognise people. The airport employee viewing the image must also be in another room so it impossible to see who the image actually is.
Only a small number of airline passengers will be asked to have the full body scan and this raises some interesting questions as to how passengers will be chosen. Airports hacve recently said that they believe that there is little point in scanning certain types of people. For example an elderly lady is unlikely to be a terror suspect, however, concerns have been raised about discrimination so airlines and airports will need to have a strict code of practice in place to avoid accusations of discrimination.
So, what happens if you are picked for a full body scan? Well, anyone who refuses to be scanned will be barred from boarding their flight. The exemption of under 18s from being scanned, which was in place during the trial of the machines in Manchester, has also been removed. In the USA if you refuse a full body scan you may be detained or even jailed.
It seems that the threat of terrorism has changed all our lives forever but just like all new things that happen in our lives we just get used to it and if it means we travel saftely then that has got to be good news. Our advice is that if you are asked to have a full body scan don’t refuse or kick up a fuss. Just get on with it and think of the novelty factor and the story you will be able to tell afterwards!