See-through body scanners are not as bad as they sound

By Pulat Yunusov

According to media reports on Friday, the federal privacy commissioner approved the see-through airport body scanners. These machines show your naked body in Casper-the-ghost 3D on the security officer’s screen. Although the officer can easily see if you are a bikini model or a beer belly, the procedure is subject to restrictions and rules that create a good balance between security and privacy. Don’t be afraid of see-through scanners unless we hear some bad news about their health effects down the road.

The scanners are supposed to speed up and improve that irritating extra screening at the airport. So the first rule is they will scan you only if security officers select you for extra screening. The second rule is you still have the option of a physical pat-down. The scanners give travellers a choice between physical touching and having your x-ray nude body on the screen. If this is the case, then scanners don’t make your life more miserable. You are already in humiliating extra screening, where the officers had had the right to strip-search you even before the scanners were proposed.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority promised the privacy commissioner that the officer viewing your body on the screen will be in a separate room. That’s another restriction on security to protect your privacy. But it works only if that officer can’t learn your name or store the image of your body. Unless you have a gun on you or some plastic explosive in your shoes, the officers should not connect your personal information to the image or retain the image in their computers.

Airport see-through body scanners can speed up the humiliating extra screening. They give people who don’t like pat-downs a choice. And scanners seems to be an excellent security tool. As long as they are not required in addition to pat-downs and as long as officers can’t keep your personal information and images without probable cause, scanners seem to balance privacy with security well. Hopefully, you won’t need to go through extra screening, but if you do, the scanners may be just the way to breeze through it, especially if you are late for your flight.

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