Airport to ditch 'naked' scanners

Herald Series: A member of staff from Manchester Airport looks at the results of a scan from a 'naked' security scanner A member of staff from Manchester Airport looks at the results of a scan from a 'naked' security scanner

Controversial "naked" security scanners are to be ditched by airport bosses.

The machines at Manchester Airport invaded passenger privacy, according to critics, by giving graphic X-ray style images.

But a trial of their use comes to an end next month and they will be replaced by five next generation "privacy friendly" scanners thanks to EU rules.

The new scanners include a feature which automatically processes images of passengers using a system that eliminates the need for a security officer to view the ghost-like X-ray body outlines that sparked the controversy.

The new machines instead scan passengers using radio frequency-based millimetre wave technology rather than the low dose X-rays used by the current body scanners. A computer then analyses the scans and alerts airport staff where to look for hidden objects using a stick figure diagram.

Despite a panel of independent European health experts unanimously concluding in March that there was no evidence that the current X-ray body scanners posed health risks, airport bosses said the current trial of those machines will end in six weeks because legislation from Brussels now excludes the technology.

"We're baffled by this situation because health experts say they are safe plus the overwhelming majority of our passengers and security staff prefer body scanners to frisking and it's frustrating that Brussels has allowed this successful trial to end", said Andrew Harrison, chief operating officer at MAG, Manchester Airport's parent company.

"Our security surveys and those run by the Department for Transport show passengers regularly rate their experience at Manchester as one of the best security processes in the UK if not Europe.

"There's no doubt that body scanners play a big part in these results. That's why we are once again investing in new next generation scanner technology where the human examination of images is automated."

Five new security scanners in total will start to be installed across all three terminals and transfer lounges at Manchester Airport from October 1 in a trial expected to last three months. In the meantime, an additional 55 full-time security staff have been employed.

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