- SMB Spotlight
The European Commission adopted European Union legal guidelines on Tuesday which allow airports and member states to use security scanners if they wish, hoping that the "operational and technical" conditions placed on them will allay any lingering privacy concerns.
Body scanners have been a contentious topic in Europe ever since the 2009 Christmas Day 'pants bomber' precipitated trials of the technology in airports all over the region.
In February 2010, for example, the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission said that airport scanners being used in Heathrow and Manchester invade people's right to privacy and break UK law.
However, the EC is now hoping that the common EU-wide framework will ensure that the same security rules are applied at all airports, with "strict and mandatory safeguards" to ensure that human rights are respected.
Transport commissioner Siim Kallas explained that the scanners are not a panacea, but can reinforce security.
"It is still for each member state or airport to decide whether or not to deploy security scanners, but these new rules ensure that where this new technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights," he said.
"Experience to date shows that passengers and staff generally see security scanners as a convenient method of screening."
As part of the new rules, any member state or airport wishing to implement scanners must abide by certain conditions.
These include offering passengers an alternative screening method, ensuring that the human reviewer analysing the images is in a separate location, and forbidding the storage, retention, copying, printing or retrieving of any images.
Despite protests from various privacy groups, a survey of the UK public in 2010 by Unisys found that 90 per cent of adults are willing to undergo full electronic body scans.