London, Oct 1: Heard of luggage scanners at airport, but ever heard of digital body scanners that will 'virtually strip' a person? Two years from now when a person will enter any European Union airport shall be 'virtually stripped' - for security purposes. By 2010 airports at EU will be installing digital body scanners that creates an almost naked body image of travellers. The new imaging technology, called the new millimetre wave imaging scanners, creates an image of an unclothed body which privacy critics argue 'amounts to a virtual strip search'.
According to a draft European Commission regulation, the scanners are to be used "individually or in combination, as a primary or secondary means and under defined conditions" to provide a 'virtual strip search' of travellers.
The new EU regulation is expected come into effect across the continent by the end of April 2010. It will be binding on Britain.
Dominic Grieve, Shadow Home Secretary, stressed that while body scanners may be an effective security tool and need to be implemented fairly.
"The implementation must be carried out by the British government in a proportionate manner, based on UK security requirements rather than the dictates of Brussels. Ministers need to explain publicly and transparently what these proposals are and why they are suitable to the UK," Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
The technology has already been tested on a voluntary basis at Heathrow's Terminal Four. But, a Heathrow spokeswoman has said that the trial has now been discontinued.
Passengers have to walk into a large booth for getting scanned, where electromagnetic waves are beamed on to their body to create a virtual three-dimensional 'naked' image from reflected energy. The scanners generate graphic black and white images including revealing outlines of genitalia, which has alarmed travellers, rising concerns about privacy.
Gareth Crossman, Director of Policy at Liberty, said: "I don't think people are aware of what these scanners can do and how demeaning it is to have your body on display. Heathrow was right to discontinue their use and they should not be used in Britain except as an alternative to strip searches."