The full-body scanners are up to 10 times more expensive than the usual metal detectors, which cost up to $15,000 (£9,400) Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The full body scanners being introduced to Britain’s airports risk breaking child protection laws against making indecent images of children, campaign groups have claimed.
By Heidi Blake
Airport staff member demonstrating a full body scan at Manchester Airport in Manchester, north-west England: Passenger profiling needed as well as scanners, airlines chief warns
The pictures created by the scanners are so graphic they are tantamount to “virtual strip searching”, according to privacy campaigners who oppose the use of the security devices.
Ministers may be forced to consider making under-18s exempt from the scans and civil liberties campaigners are demanding measures to ensure the images, which will include those of celebrities, are not leaked onto the internet.
Airport officials say the images from the £80,000 scanners are only seen by a single security officer in a remote location before it is deleted.
But a 12-month trial at Manchester airport of scanners which reveal naked images of passengers only went ahead last month after children were exempted.
The decision came after Terri Dowty, of Action for Rights of Children, gave warning that the scanners could breach the Protection of Children Act 1978, under which it is illegal to create an indecent image or a “pseudo-image” of a child.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport told The Guardian: “We understand the concerns expressed about privacy in relation to the deployment of body scanners. It is vital staff are properly trained and we are developing a code of practice to ensure these concerns are properly taken into account.
Gordon Brown gave the go-ahead at the weekend for the scanners to be rolled out across all Britain’s major airports, and said travellers would see the gradual introduction of full-body scans and hand luggage checks for traces of explosives.
The Prime Minister told the BBC that the Government would do everything in its power to tighten security following the attempt by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate a bomb on a plane bound for the USA on Christmas Day.
BAA, which runs six UK airports, said it would now install the devices “as soon as is practical” at Heathrow.
A spokesman said: “It is our view that a combination of technology, intelligences and passenger profiling will help build a more robust defence against the unpredictable and changing nature of the terrorist threat to aviation.”
But he added that nothing had yet been decided on exactly which passengers would undergo the full body scans, and declined to comment on how soon BAA would be extending the use of scanners to other airports.