Kirlian Photograph

Originally, passengers had to remove their jackets when passing through airport security. Then it was belts, and soon shoes had to come off too. But those who feared that losing one’s trousers was the next logical step will find scant comfort in the news that an x-ray machine that produces “naked” images of passengers will be introduced at a British international airport today.

As well as enabling staff to instantly spot any hidden weapons or explosives, the full-body scanner being trialled at Manchester airport will leave little to the imagination of airport security staff. It will reveal a clear outline of passengers genitalia, as well as any false limbs, breast enlargements or body piercings.

Guardian.

It makes you wonder what evil the people at Manchester airport are supposed to have done to deserve this trial in addition to the requirement for staff to get biometric ID cards.

But of course an unfounded supposition of guilt would be no excuse for rolling out this sort of scheme and you know this.

You also know that it is part of the ‘security theatre’ to inure people to more intrusion into their lives. This was said at the time of removing belts and shoes and now we see the attempted introduction of this technology (for at least the second time). This incrementally increasing intrusion cannot be disputed, however it can and should be resisted.

The Guardian fails in questioning this (are the existing detection methods effective or already too onerous?) or alerting the general reader.

Travellers can refuse to undergo the virtual strip at Terminal 2 and choose a traditional “pat down” search instead, according to the airport, which admits that some travellers may feel uncomfortable about using the new technology.

This of course makes the system unable to enhance security. Another parroting fail too.

The scan’s black and white image will be seen by one officer in a remote location before it is deleted, said Sarah Barrett, head of customer experience at the airport.

The image will be transmitted across a computer network and (at least temporarily) stored in some form memory. The procedure will create of images of a very personal nature that are not under the control of the passenger and will be viewed by someone unknown.

Anyone being scanned is being asked to consent to someone else creating and owning the following property; an image of themselves unclothed to be viewed by an unknown third party in unknown circumstances. You know yourself whether this acceptable.
The transmission and ‘remote access’ of the images may be compromised, at the least the remote viewer may be able to take screenshots. The article does not mention a lower age limit.

Is the ‘head of customer experience’ the best person to ask about such technology? Guardian mega-fail.

“Most of our customers do not like the traditional ‘pat down’ search, they find it too intrusive, but they still want to be kept safe. This scanner completely takes away the hassle of needing to undress. The images are not erotic or pornographic and they cannot be stored or captured in any way,” she said.

What hassle of needing to undress? Why is an increased level of search required? Is it purely to remind passengers they are being ‘kept safe’ because they are now used to pat down procedures?

Pornography being a subjective matter of course.

Storage? See above.

As passengers will not have to remove their coats, shoes or belts, the scanner will – in theory – speed up the check-in process. Frequent flyers will not be at risk from the low-level radiation, which is 20,000 times less powerful than a dental x-ray, Barrett said.

“Passengers can go through this machine 5,000 times a year each without worrying, it is super safe and the amount of radiation transmitted is tiny,” she said.

Hmm presumably this will be marketed to frequent flyers as a way to jump queues. Nothing like eager volunteers to make a trial run smoothly.

The scanners, made by the firm RapiScan Systems at a cost of £80,000 each, were trialled at Heathrow airport in 2004. The Department for Transport will decide whether to install them permanently at the end of the trial, which is expected to last for a year.

A nice little earner for the vendor. Now, this technology has been on trial since 2004 and not implemented, in the intervening period the actual ‘enhanced security’ at airports has not been compromised, so why exactly is it necessary to trial it again other than the vendor wants another bite at the cookie.

Why will the Department of Transport take the decision to install these devices rather than the Home Office? Is it because they know less about border control issues?

Electromagnetic waves are beamed on to passengers while they stand in a booth, and a virtual three-dimensional “naked” image is created from the reflected energy. Security officials in the US have pioneered the use of the scanners at New York and Los Angeles airports and they are gradually being introduced at other airports in the country.

What the US does is its own business and irrelevent to the argument.

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  1. […] more here: Kirlian Photograph October 13th, 2009 | Tags: airport-today-, british, enabling-staff, full, instantly-spot, jackets, […]

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