Manchester Airport trials virtual strip-search system

Rapiscan image (BBC)
Rapiscan image (BBC)

You would think after 4 years of trials at Heathrow, that British airports would now be able to work out whether or not they could and more importantly, should, use the various varieties of body scanners that are now available. However Manchester Airport is holding another trial starting from now at its Terminal 2. At least it will give a chance for the public to say what they think. The scans are remote – i.e.: the officer observing the images is not on the airport floor, which prevents the kind of scenario we mentioned in our Report on the Surveillance Society of lewd remarks directed at passengers. Personally, I am rather less concerned about this rather abstract view of my body being seen briefly as I pass through an airport than I am about my financial details and personal life being traded between private companies, or about being under constant video surveillance in ordinary public space in the city. However, the images, although ghostly, are detailed enough that genitals, deformities, medical implants and so on can be seen, and if this story is to be believed it would seem that there is no provision for women’s images to be seen by a women alone and men’s only by a man. This will make it entirely unacceptable to some people, in particular members of certain religious groups. But the scans are – at least, for now – voluntary, in that passengers can refuse and have a traditional pat-down search instead.

However, this technology won’t be staying in the airports for long. I reported back in July on stories that terahertz wave scanning could soon be made to fit into portable cameras. That raises a whole different set of social, political and ethical questions…

(Thanks to Simon Reilly for sending me the link)

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

3 thoughts on “Manchester Airport trials virtual strip-search system”

  1. Sadly I think it’s a small price worth paying. We’re in a different world with air travel expanding at a phenomenal rate. In the absence of other commercially available solutions I’d certainly feel safer knowing that another layer of security was in place.

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