Aussies protest airport "virtual strip search"

Tue Oct 7, 2008 1:15am EDT
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A trial of full-body scanner security checks at Australian airports have got some passengers worried that their private parts won't be private any more, and that the revealing images may end up on the Internet.

The body scanners use a low-level radio frequency to create an image which reveals hidden objects on a person, said the Office of Transport Security (OTS). But the scanners also outline a person's body shape.

Airline passenger Samantha Jones told local media she was concerned that images would be saved and could end up on the Internet. She said she hated the idea of a stranger looking at her body. "I would feel a little bit violated," she said.

Some passengers also complained that the scanners were a "virtual strip search."

But the OTS said passenger privacy was protected.

"Privacy protection measures include: faces are blurred, security screeners are located elsewhere and cannot see you, images are not saved and cannot be transferred," the OTS said on its website

OTS executive director Paul Retter said passengers would not be forced to use the body scanner during the trial.

"During the trial, travelers will be able to choose the existing hand-luggage scanners and walk-through metal detectors, or they could choose the technology trial lane and provide feedback on the new technologies," Ritter said.

The high-tech machines are already in use at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which introduced them in May 2007 following a year-long trial at crew security checkpoints.