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Germany

Hamburg Airport to test controversial body scanners

Within weeks, German air passengers in Hamburg will pass through full-body scanners before catching their flights. The scanners have raised fears about risks to health and personal privacy.

A man being scanned

The scanners will show a representation of the body

The controversial full body scanner will become a feature of life for passengers passing through German airport security within weeks as Hamburg's airport will begin using the devices next month.

Early tests of the apparatus will begin in Hamburg at the beginning of September, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

The hi-tech security measure has proved controversial in some EU countries, with critics saying the scanners are too invasive. De Maiziere told the German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he was satisfied that the technology did not pose a risk to health, or privacy.

Thomas De Maiziere

De Maiziere said that privacy and health fears had been addressed

"There is no real picture of the body," said de Maiziere, adding that individuals and suspicious objects would be represented in "a schematic representation of the body, like stick men."

The scanners use waves to scan the body for explosives or weapons. Suspicious objects are marked on the monitor with a red spot.

"Experts have carefully measured and ascertained that the radiation the body scanner uses poses no health hazard," said de Maiziere.

The use of the scanners, even as a test, is likely to generate lively debate within Germany.

Privacy concerns

Civil liberties groups protest that the scanners amount to an invasion of privacy, while privacy campaigners say that the technology violates European law by producing sexually explicit images.

Scanner images showing show body contours

Data that could show body contours is supposed to be deleted

The United States called on members of the European Union to introduce scanners after a Nigerian passenger tried to blow up a plane bound for Chicago on Christmas Day last Year with explosives hidden in his underwear.

US security authorities had demanded that original pictures taken by the machine - which display the contours of the body - be saved for possible later use. However, the German Interior Ministry has insisted that all images be deleted after passengers pass through the airport.

Extension of the technology to all German airports is not expected to take place until the middle of 2011.

Full-body scanners are already used in some EU countries, such as Britain and the Netherlands. EU member states including Spain and Germany voiced concerns about an EU-wide introduction of the technology at a meeting of EU interior ministers earlier this year.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa/AFP/dpa)
Editor: Kyle James

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