October 23, 2008

EU Lawmakers Call For Further Review of Airport Body Scanners

European lawmakers called for a detailed review of technology used in airport full-body scanners on Thursday, calling the scans that show people's private parts a "virtual strip search".

The scanners "have a serious impact on the fundamental rights of citizens," said the lawmakers in a non-binding resolution that passed in a vote of 361 to 16, with 181 abstentions.

The resolution asks the bloc's executive European Commission to conduct an economic, medical and human rights review of the scanners' impact.

And while the resolution does not call for an outright ban on the scanners, some lawmakers say they are unacceptable.

"I think this is an offence against human dignity. Using this technology does not make us safer," Martin Schulz, the leader of the assembly's Socialist group, told Reuters.

"These are machines that allow for you to be seen totally naked."

Last month the European Commission proposed that the scanners be added to a list of security measures permitted to be used at airports within the EU's 27 countries.  

Since a number of EU states, including the Netherlands, already use the scanners, the Commission said adding them to the list would standardize the operational security environment throughout the bloc.

Jens Mester, a spokesman for the European Commission, said fears concerning the proposal were exaggerated.

"It is correct the body will indeed be pictured," he said.

"But the quality is more that of a negative of a photograph, it is not a very clear image but sufficient to detect metal things, explosives or strange objects."