March 24, 2010 / 11:00 AM / in 8 years

UK airport worker warned in scanner ogling claim

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A security worker at London’s Heathrow Airport has received a police warning and faces disciplinary action over claims he ogled a female colleague using a full-body scanner, officials said on Wednesday.

<p>A security officer examines a computer screen showing a scan from a RapiScan full-body scanner, being trialled by Manchester Airport, during a photocall at the airport, in Manchester, northern England January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble</p>

The 25-year-old worker made lewd comments after his colleague Jo Margetson, 29, mistakenly strayed into the scanner, which can see through clothes to produce an image of the body, the Sun newspaper reported.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind since the full-body scanners were rushed into service at a number of British airports in the wake of an attempt by a suspected Muslim extremist to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on December 25.

They are now being rolled out at airports across the world.

Details of the incident at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on March 10 emerged on the day lawmakers said concerns that the scanners were intrusive had been overblown.

Margetson told the Sun she had been “traumatized” by what had happened and had informed police and her bosses at the airport’s operator BAA.

“We treat any allegations of inappropriate behavior or misuse of security equipment very seriously and these claims are being investigated thoroughly,” said a spokeswoman for BAA.

“If found to be substantiated, we will take appropriate action.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said officers had been informed of the allegation and “a first instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old man.”

Opponents of scanners have argued since their introduction that they risked breaching individuals’ rights to privacy. Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has already said they might be breaking discrimination and privacy laws.

“For every official caught ogling like this, there are plenty more eyeing up law-abiding travelers,” Alex Deane, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, told the Sun.

“These expensive machines are totally disproportionate.”

The government says staff using the machines are properly supervised and would not be able to see the person being scanned. All images are deleted.

Britain’s parliamentary Home Affairs Committee said fears about the scanners were misplaced and they should be introduced at a faster pace to deal with the threat of terrorism.

“The Committee is satisfied that the privacy concerns that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated and ... should not prevent the deployment of scanners,” it said in a report.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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