Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Airport Security Sees You Naked – Even While Wearing Clothes

Just how comfortable are you with your body? Now imagine complete strangers eyeballing you up and down – just how comfortable are you with your body?

You may be asking yourself just that question if you catch a flight at Canada’s busiest airport – Lester B. Pearson, in Toronto, ON.

The airport is considering implementing a new scanning technology being tested in several airports in the States, and already in use in one airport off Canada’s west-coast in British Columbia, which scans through clothing.

The scanner in question uses the latest in X-Ray, heat sensing, and other technologies – which have been deemed “classified” by the American government’s Department of Homeland Security – to get up close and personal with passers-by. It can even detect body piercings and some tattoos (depending on the type of ink used).

Air travel has undergone quite the transformation over the years – thanks to terrorist activities, most notably those on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on what has been branded as “9-11.”

September 11, 2001Image by wallyg via Flickr

I remember a television commercial back in the 1980’s for American Airlines, where a couple of cute kids (a boy and a girl) run past security, down the boarding tunnel, and into their grandparents arms. Everyone turns and sighs “awe” all teary-eyed, as the jingle began in the background.

These days, even the cutest kids running past security at an airport could easily be shot dead.

That is unless security first scans them from head to toe, sans clothing.
Just how much more of our private selves must we sacrifice to travel by air? It is one thing to scan people as they board a plane for things on our person, in our luggage and carry-on bags. But does some complete stranger, have to see us completely naked?

In the American airports where this scanning technology is in place, they have placed the monitors in a small locked room, with one sole security guard, who watches them, only alerting the guard at the actual scanner by pressing a button when he suspects something isn’t just right. Then the guard at the scanner will take the suspected person into custody for a “chat.”

At the British Columbian airport where the scanner is in use, passengers have the option of being manually scanned instead of being forced through the scanner.

But the fact that any airport anywhere in the world is using technology which can show, record, and store images of our naked bodies is wrong.

The American Department of Homeland Security assures us that the images will only be retrieved and reviewed if absolutely necessary, and for the safe

An American Airlines MD-82 in flight above Tor...Image via Wikipedia

ty and security all those involved.

Still, despite all the security checks and balances, there will always be the odd ball employee who sneaks through the cracks. How would you feel if nude pictures of you suddenly appeared on the Internet?

Or what about celebrities – just think how easy it would be for one of these security guards to access the scanned images of some famous person, and then sell them on eBay for a small fortune.

Regardless of what is done with the images once captured, the fact that a complete stranger is watching my bare body as I walk through the scanner freaks me out.

As impressive as the technology is, it is overstepping the line between acceptable levels of security and paranoia, which breaches the right of individual privacy.

What business is it of the airline or the government what piercings or tattoos people have as they board a plane?

In this era of pandemic viruses spreading like wildfire, what’s stopping the governments from using these scanners to detain people who appear to have some rash, or other physical signs of illness?

Imagine being stopped, strip searched, fingerprinted, and being poked and prodded by some strange medical practitioner because the security guard operating the scanner thought you were carrying some strange disease – when the rash on your chest was nothing more than an allergic reaction to last night’s dinner?

There is security for the sake of actually protecting people and property, and then there is overkill. This new see-through-the-clothes scanner is overkill, and hopefully the government does the right thing and kills this project, before it begins.

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