Airport body scanners… all your questions answered

An airport body scanner

An airport body scanner: image credit

Anyone flying from major UK airports in 2015 could be asked to undertake a full body scan. Being selected can be a daunting experience, so here’s all the information you need to make sure you’re fully aware of what the machine does and what your rights are.

Here’s all the information you need when making your way through security…

Airport body scanners… your at-a-glance guide


What technology does the body scanner use:

What technology does the body scanner use: All scanning systems must use millimetre wave imaging technology to flag objects that could be concealed under clothing.


Are they safe to use:

Are they safe to use: Yes, according to Government research. Tests have concluded that the scanner is less invasive than a mobile phone or than being in the sun. It is also certified as safe for pregnant women, children and those with medical implants such as pacemakers.


Will everyone have to go inside one:

Will everyone have to go inside one: No. Passengers will go through the usual metal detector gates, but some will be picked out at random to be tested in the scanner. The exact reasons why someone gets chosen are kept secret for security reasons, but selection cannot be based on criteria such as disability, sex, gender reassignment, age, race, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and sexual orientation.


What happens when I am scanned:

What happens when I am scanned: If chosen, you will be asked to stand in the machine and assume a particular position. There might also be a request to rotate to a second position. The scan will take just a few minutes.


Will I be naked in the image:

Will I be naked in the image: No, not in any image that’ll be seen by a human. The scanner uses an Automatic Threat Recognition and Detection functionality to digitally look for possible threats. If any are detected, the scanner will display them on a ‘gingerbread man’ image for the human operator to review. He will then decide if a physical search is needed.


Show me what the operator will see:

Show me what the operator will see: Okay. If the scan is clear the operator will only see the first screen, if areas of threat are detected, the second screen will be displayed with the mannequin outline – not your actual image.

What operator will see if there's no threat

What operator will see if there’s no threat: image credit

What operator will see if there's a 'threat' detected in your scan

What operator will see if there’s a ‘threat’ detected in your scan: image credit


Are the original images stored:

Are the original images stored: The image is analysed from within the computer and will never be seen, transmitted, saved or printed.


Are children exempt from the scanner:

Are children exempt from the scanner: No. Children might also be asked to go through the body scanner.


Can I refuse to be scanned:

Can I refuse to be scanned: The Government’s Code of Conduct covering body scanners states: ‘An individual may opt out of being scanned. In this instance, the individual must either be screened by an alternative method which includes at least an enhanced hand search in private or that individual must not be permitted to enter the security restricted area, or, if applicable, he or she must be removed from it. An enhanced hand search in private must take place in a private room or an area away from the main search comb. This may involve the loosening or removal of clothing.


Where can I read the full Code of Conduct covering body scanners:

Where can I read the full Code of Conduct covering body scanners: How about you click right here


See a body scanner in action

See how a scanner operates:

See how a scanner operates: image credit

Watch a video of a body scanner in operation in an airport environment.
Watch the video here

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