Europe to allow widespread use of airport body scanners

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Europe has adopted a proposed framework that would allow the use of body scanners at airports across the European Union, subject to a number of conditions.

Until now airports in certain EU member states have been testing full-body scanners under differing national standards.

Under the proposed framework adopted today, airports across the EU will be able to replace their existing security systems with body scanners in compliance with a harmonised set of rules.

"Security scanners are a valuable alternative to existing screening methods and are very efficient in detecting both metallic and non-metallic objects," said European transport commissioner Siim Kallas.

"It is still for each member state or airport to decide whether or not to deploy security scanners, but these new rules ensure that where this new technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights."

X-ray backscatter scanners will not be permitted in the EU "in order not to risk jeopardising citizens' health and safety", said the European Commission. This means only the scanning machines that use millimetre wave technology will be permitted.

In the USA, where both types of scanner are used, the machines have stirred up controversy because they produce a graphic image of the person being screened.

Among the rules set out by the European Commission, the person analysing the image must be based in a separate location so the image cannot be linked to the screened individual.