Saturday, September 22, 2012

Correction: Manchester airport substituting one naked scanner for another

The headlines for all of the articles this past week about the backscatter naked scanners trial ending at England's Manchester airport are so misleading. For example, "Manchester Airport's body scanners scrapped" and "Manchester airport axes controversial 'naked' scanners after EU fails to approve them."

Here's what has really happened. The EU approved backscatter naked scanners on a trial basis. The trial automatically expires in October, and Manchester was the airport where these scanners were installed. Therefore, the scanners will be illegal in the EU starting next month and Manchester has to stop using them.

But, the EU has no such law against the millimeter wave scanners. So Manchester will be swapping one naked scanner - the MMW version with the software upgrade showing cartoon figures - for the old naked scanner - the x-ray backscatter version. As I've written here before, the MMW scanners with the cartoon software are still taking an image of unclothed people, virtually strip-searching them. But, instead of showing the security goons that data in a format that looks like an actual naked person, it shows the data in the form of a cartoon. Either way, the data exists to reconstruct an unclothed person - the software is just hiding it.