Scanners “a virtual strip search” — and no code of conduct yet

Jeremy Phillips

Writing yesterday in ComputerWeekly.com (“Department of Transport works on body scan code of practice”), Ian Grant reported on the lack of current government plans to store body scans of air passengers, in the wake of concerns that processing and storing images could breach the privacy of individuals. The Department of Transport is quoted as saying that all images will be deleted as soon as each subject is cleared for take-off, and the department is developing a code of practice for airport operators so as to ensure passenger privacy.

Over in the USA the American Civil Liberties Union claims that the black and white scans “amount to a virtual strip search”, since they reveal, among other things, the subject’s genitalia and any implants. Says the UK’s Department of Transport:

“There are obviously privacy issues related to the use of the scanners. One of the items in the code would be to block the person reading the scan from seeing the person being scanned during the operation”.

Datonomy wonders how long it will be before plans to delete images of safe passengers are jettisoned since the comparison of ‘before’ and ‘after’ scans of individuals might reveal grounds for raising a fresh suspicion or confirming a previously-held one.

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