Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

Summary: New European guidelines issued on Monday restrict 'backscatter' airport scanning machines in Europe over 'health and safety' concerns. The U.S. TSA is reportedly not pleased.

TOPICS: Hardware

The European Commission has set out rules that seem to have irked the U.S. Transportation Security Agency (TSA), by restricting the use of certain full-body scanners that show body parts and identifiable imagery.

Any full-body scanning system used by border agencies must now obscure faces to protect individuals' identities, and border officials who view full-body images must do so from a separate room from the scanner, the Commission said on Monday.

But the Commission has consequentially caused problems for the border-sensitive TSA.

(Source: TSA)

While the European Commission said in a statement that security scanners are "not a panacea", it acknowledged that devices do offer reinforcement to passenger security.

But the TSA responded to what was a trans-Atlantic agreement, that those entering the United States as part of a transfer or as an ending destination, originating countries must enforce the same level of protection that the United States offers.

In a statement, the TSA highlighted that the government department "rigorously tests" its technology to ensure not only high detection but safety standards also.

The United States has two devices to scan passengers with: the 'Backscatter' device will no longer be allowed under European law, opting instead for the millimeter-wave scanner, which is understood to not pose any health effects.

Passengers will have the right to opt-out of a full-body scan under the new European legislation, but will undergo another form of physical search instead. Arguably, the alternative could be more physically invasive, privacy groups have warned.

Having said that, the U.S. has been known for 'giving but not taking', particularly in response to data protection principles that the European Commissions set out in 1995. U.S. companies operating in Europe must adhere to European regulatory rules when sending data outside of the European zone, or face strict penalties.

The EU is widely considered to have the strongest data protection laws in the world.

Many of these scanners virtually 'remove' the clothing of passengers, showing what appears to be a ghost-like naked body.

The Commission said that some security scanners will only be allowed should they:

"...not store, retain, copy, print or retrieve images. Any unauthorised access and use of the image is prohibited and shall be prevented; the human reviewer analysing the image shall be in a separate location and the image should not be linked to the screened person and others. Passengers must be informed about conditions under which the security scanner control takes place."

Images of full-body screening will therefore be destroyed to reduce the privacy footprint of the machines.

As ZDNet UK reports, while some airports, such as Heathrow and Manchester in the UK use full-body scanners as part of a trial of the technology, even under new European rules, these machines will continue to be used until the trials are completed.


Topic: Hardware

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  • That's what diplomats are for

    But maybe we shouldn't be trying to write TSA regs into international law.
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

    why don't you say it is an x-ray scanner.....
    • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

      @yaque Because the TSA won't admit that it uses X-ray (or any other form of radiation), saying that they are perfectly safe...

      So safe, that they ban TSA personnel from wearing radiation monitoring badges!
  • These Scanners Would Not Have Picked Up The Underwear Bomber

    Tell us again, exactly what security "problem" are these devices designed to solve?
    • RE: ...exactly what security "problem" are these devices designed to solve?


      That "problem" is continued profits for the companies making the scanners; and continuing aggravation for fliers.
      • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased


        You are the first besides myself that understands the situation (that I am aware of!) Very Good!
    • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

      @ldo17 The problem is the "perception" of safety or lack thereof. Meanwhile, our ports are more of a hazard than anything capable of being smuggled onto a plane. It's all for show and politics - no one wants an incident to happen on their watch. Meanwhile, the whole point of terrorism is to use fear to coerce change, which is exactly what is happening.

      I remember Michael Moore had a few pages in a book he wrote after 9/11 that some of the items banned for bringing onboard flights were... knitting needles, popsicle sticks and... leaf blowers. Yes, leaf blowers. Moore asked how many of us have ever been on a flight and unable to resist the urge to clear the leaves from the aisle? Meanwhile, the one item that was actually used to try to bring down a plane, cigarette lighters, were still allowed. He had one person at a book signing tell him (unconfirmed) that this was because the tobacco industry had lobbied on behalf of smokers to let them bring them onboard so they could light up as soon as they got off the plane. Again, it's all theater. As is, if people had been doing their jobs, 9/11 would have been prevented with the existing laws and intelligence practices in place at the time; there was no need for any of this Patriot Act stuff, just the need for people to act on things like memos detailing foreigners wanting to learn how to pilot, but not take off or land, planes or connect this with another memo entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike within U.S."
  • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

    Someone in the EU didn't do their research. The backscatter radiation dose that someone recieves from this kind of scanner is less than the amount of radiation that someone recieves in the first four minutes of the flight and less radiation than a standard dental scan.<br><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>Oh, right, this isn't *REALLY* about safety and health, this is purely a political move so someone in the EU can pad their resume with "looking out for the little guy".<br><br>Hopefully when the planes come crashing down, it's over the ocean so that the pieces of the plane don't drop on kids playing at the park under the flight path.
    • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

      @PollyProteus If you want to really protect planes, the only way you can do that is to have all passengers nude, drugged, and handcuffed to their seats. We're expending massive amounts to protect a small vector with limited targets. Meanwhile, in America in 2007, 616,067 people died of heart disease and 562,875 of cancer. The total deaths worldwide from plane crashes this year has been 776. The total number estimated to die from thyroid cancer in 2006 was 1500. The Daily Mail ran an article in June of 2010 citing research that those with up to 4 dental x-rays had more than twice the average chance of getting diagnosed with thyroid cancer, those with between 5-9 dental X-rays, four times the chance, and ten or above more than five times the chance of getting thyroid cancer. It would seem that if we reduced the dental radiation you've referred to by half, we could save more lives per year in the United States alone than are lost across the globe in airplane accidents, let alone terrorist attacks.

      The U.S. has had 1,955 air casualties between 1989-2007, or a little over 100 per year. Between 1970-2007, we've had 3,292 terrorism casualties outside war zones, or about 89 per year. Worldwide, transnational terrorism (across borders) outside of war zones has been 13,971 lives total between 1975-2003. That's just under 500 per year worldwide, or a 1 in 12.5 million chance. You have several times the chance of slipping and dying in your bathtub (1 in 950,000) or killed in a deer-related accident (1 in 2,000,000) then you do dying from terrorism.

      PollyProteus, if you were *really* concerned with safety and health, you'd invent a better non-slip bathtub surface or deer birth control aid and save more people than these TSA scanners ever will. Given that cancer claims 1 in 540 in the U.S., eliminating even the small dose of radiation these devices deliver will also probably save more lives than the devices themselves ever can.
  • RE: Europe restricts use on some airport full-body scanners; TSA appears displeased

    About time someone told the TSA to pack sand.