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'Naked' body scanner unveiled at Hamburg Airport

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'Naked' body scanner unveiled at Hamburg Airport
Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière demonstrates. Photo: DPA
14:56 CEST+02:00
A six-month test run of the controversial ‘naked' body scanner began at the Hamburg Airport on Monday. While the Interior Minister hailed the security measure as “a victory for safety,” concerns about passenger privacy continue.

The standard security checks will remain in place at the fifth-largest airport in Germany, but passengers will have the option of undergoing the full-body scan by the new machine.

“Today is a step towards improved air security in Germany's airports,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said as the new machine was unveiled, adding that the event was “a victory for safety in civilian air travel.”

The trial period will analyse three basic requirements: the certainty that they pose no health risks, protect individual rights and improve aviation security. Data will be analysed at the end of the six months to determine the long term success of the scanners.

The L-3 ProVision ATD scanners use millimetre-wave technology to produce outline images of bodies, with each scan lasting less than three seconds. The manufacturers claim that only places where dangerous items may be kept are scanned in detail and that the images are soon deleted.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats had announced in January that the use of the scanners would be fast tracked for introduction within 2010 following the foiled Christmas Day “underwear bomb” incident in Detroit last year.

But the airport scanners – often derisively referred to a “naked scanners” or “digital strip searchers” – have come up against fierce opposition in Europe and particularly in Germany with privacy campaigners arguing they effectively show the passenger nude.

The country's data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, had previously warned against deploying the scanners too quickly, saying that they failed to protect personal rights and may not be able to tell the difference between foreign objects, such as prosthetics, and weapons.

Schaar repeated these concerns to news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday, saying that more people would now be scanned “more frequently in sensitive areas.”

He also expressed concerns about who would be able to see the scanned images.

Meanwhile the US-based scanner manufacturer, L-3, has been criticised because their product range also includes weapons, particularly cluster bombs.

DAPD/The Local/rm

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