UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Will the grope lobby thwart better air safety?

January 6, 2010

AirportSecurity

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson said that London’s Heathrow would get body scanners this month to step up safety. Amsterdam’s airport operator made a similar announcement on Monday and others in Europe could follow.

That will go down like a lead balloon with the European Parliament, whose grope-fond members last year thwarted efforts to push ahead with more thorough passenger screening.

The MEPs fretted that travellers would oppose the privacy invasion of an X-ray or scan and flagged possible health risks, thus producing two juicy excuses for inaction.

Germany’s then home affairs minister Wolfgang Schauble said he didn’t want police to be accused of voyeurism, a view akin to halting neighbourhood patrols to avoid the appearance of loitering.

Politicians may not be very good at protecting the public, but they are experts at protecting themselves and this was a political no-fly zone.

Just think, widescreen TVs showing off everyone’s backside to tittering security officials and long queues of fellow passengers. To say nothing of the X-ray radiation rapidly killing people.

It was a political no-brainer. No government these days lacks a Privacy Commissioner, after all.

So clever machines that could have made the travelling public safer will now get a UK roll-out in the UK. Unfortunately for several years they’ve languishing in very few European airports and being used only as a voluntary option to the old-fashioned grope.

Misleading views on both the privacy and health issues persist.

In reality, the machines block out your face, produce not a video of your body but a hologram and the screens are in a security room, not mid-floor in the airport hall. In the UK and elsewhere, child protection legislation would likely bar use for under-18s.

As for safety, manufacturers insist passengers do themselves more harm talking on a mobile phone than walking through an X-ray.

At a briefing on new airport body scanners a few years ago, I whispered “Honey, does my bum look big in this?” to the nervous displeasure of the company’s press officer.

Politicians have been similarly uptight since, and that has put air travellers at unnecessary risk.

What do you think about the use of full body scanners at airports? Are they a good idea or would you object to using them?

Comments

Travelling by airplane is already safer than getting out of bed in the morning. There was one FAILED attack on a plane. That same day thousands of people died in car crashes. We are in the grip of irrational mass hysteria whipped up by irresponsible media who just want to sell their nonsense and fuelled by spineless politicians. And that is exactly what the terrorists want. The West’s problems are a lack of backbone, and the collapse of governmental respect for the dignity and autonomy of the law abiding citizen. Terrorism is a piddling, statistically negligible risk, and we should just get on with our lives the way we used to.

Posted by Bhoeble | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •