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Body scanners

December 30, 2009

Calls are mounting to introduce full-body scanners at airports. Germany's interior minster says he is in favor of the idea, but he has called for better technology to be implemented.

Display of a body scanner
Body scanners are seen by critics as infringing on privacyImage: AP

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere has supported the introduction of full-body scanners - also dubbed 'nude' scanners - at the country's airports. He called, however, for technical improvements and strict regulations to safeguard passengers' privacy and health.

De Maziere told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that new models were currently being developed that would live up to such standards.

"I cannot yet say whether we will find a solution ... but I think it is worth researching to see whether there is a machine that would protect personal rights," Thomas de Maiziere said.

Intolerable privacy invasion?

Body scanners generate images of anything hidden under a person's clothes - including his or her body. While they could improve airport security, critics say they could amount to intolerable invasion of privacy.

De Maziere said that a new generation of the scanners would blur genitals but still pick out any dangerous items hidden under a passenger's clothes.

Policeman at airport
Airport security has been increased following the attempted attackImage: AP

Germany's commissioner for data protection, Peter Schaar, has spoken out against the use of any such scanners.

"I'm surprised how quickly people are to call for the scanners, before any of the basic questions related to them have been answered," he said.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger rejects the use of scanners.

"It remains to be seen whether they can be used without infringing upon people's privacy. It will depend on the technical progress of these scanners," she said.

Obama: "systemic failure" led to Detroit attack

Calls for the use of body scanners at airports have been on the rise since the attempted terror attack on a Detroit-bound plane coming from Amsterdam on December 25.

Schiphol airport
Schiphol airport will soon introduce body scanners for passengers to the USImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

US President Barak Obama on Tuesday said there had been "human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security."

Security experts say that a scanner might have detected the explosives the terrorist was hiding when he boarded the plane.

The Netherland's Interior Minster Guusje ter Horst announced on Wednesday that his country would begin using full-body scanners within three weeks to scan people travelling to the United States.

Ter Horst said normal procedures had been adhered to at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Christmas Day, when 23-year-old Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is alleged to have boarded a flight to Detroit with explosives in his underwear.

The minister added that normal metal detectors would not have identified the explosives, and that full-body scanners may have prevented the attempted attack.

Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled devices on board to build a bomb which he intended to detonate upon landing in Detroit. He was overpowered by the plane's crew and passengers.

Editor: Chuck Penfold

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