A blog reader asked me to look at the code of practice on the acceptable use of body scanners to enhance security at UK airports. The consultation period associated with the code ended four weeks ago, so I apologise for a severe case of “better late than never”. In summary, the code still ignores several key issues. However, to …
“How does this system display my ‘bits’?”
Why not have a monitor in the scanner so that the passenger can see their own image?
(yes, yes, I know - that could compromise the security of the scanner as terrorists would know how shit the image was - security by obscurity!!!)
from my (admittedly small) experience of airports if the person going through the scan can see a monitor with their image on it then everyone queueing behind them would probably see it too.....
Given that the authorities at airports already seem to be using various types of searches in breach of Arcticle 8 of the HRA, it is likely that this will continue with the scanners.
The idea that someone can be subjected to any kind of ionising radiation against their will or be denied travel seems really draconian.
What is really annoying is that a whole load of public money has been spent on these things before anyone decided to think about whether or how they could be used.
It is all window dressing anyway.
who gives a crap
I dont see where any personal data or privacy issues come into this - the metal detecting staff dont even know who you are , presumably the same for the scanner staff.
Same sax interrogator? well no problem just have 1 scanner, two paid pervs in a booth with the TV, the passenger presses a button when going through to determine which one sees the output.
will it show my bits? well just have a sample printout pinned up.
Seeing as HMRC seem to have the right to do what the hell they want with your property and body, including sticking their fingers up your arse just because its a slow day, the scanner is the least of my worries!
Scan or not fly
Are you sue of this aspect? I was under the impression you could refuse scanning and get a pat-down instead - but still fly. If this isn't the case then you seem to be presumed guilty if you refuse scanning.
I went through Heathrow earlier in the year and was fully prepared to opt my kids out - but the scanners didn't seem to be in place at the terminal I was at. I don't get my kids x-rayed all the time for obvious reasons - why should I trust that box in the airport?
How was it going to harm you kids, I wonder?
I was perved at
I flew into Heathrow from Hong Kong on Saturday morning transferring to a UK domestic flight, so having passed through HK security, where they questioned me about the needles I was carrying for my insulin, all was fine and I was able to board a 747.
On entry to Heathrow via the flight transfer route, I had to then go through UK security, where they were more concerned about the half bottle of water I brought from the HK flight than any damage my needles would do.
Then the metal on my belt caused the scanner to beep so I was patted down, then had the handheld metal detector used, where the studs on my jeans made it beep. They asked what I had in my pockets and despite several times telling them there was nothing in my pockets I had to turn them out, proving I was telling them the truth, but this was not good enough so I was TOLD I had to go for a body scan... I didn't realise I had a choice.
Surely if I wanted to blow up a plane with the dangerous half bottle of water and the metal buckle on my belt, doing so on the 747 from HK would have made more of a statement than on a smaller UK domestic plane.
I felt like such a criminal.
Airport checks these days really annoy me - if anyone can tell me why my belt and shoes are considered dangerous and worthy of having to be x-rayed every single time I fly... other than making jobs for jumped up little hitlers that like to tell people what to do.
Honestly, these days, I would be willing to take the risk of flying fly on any plane with the same level of checks that were carried out prior to 11 Sep 01.
You don't have a choice. Not at all.
The "choice" in the New Labour legislation is "Be scanned by a dose of ionising radiation with unknown long-term effects" or "Be refused boarding"
*All* the current perv-scanners are X-Ray based, and nobody has done any research whatsoever into the long-term effects of repeated low-dose X-rays.
There has however been research into repeated medical-imaging X-ray doses, which showed notable increases in cancer risk.
To top it off, looking at the actual effectiveness of the devices shows that we'd be better off with charcoal-coated cockerels.
The ionising radiation. It ionises you see.
Ionising radiation not so bad
'*All* the current perv-scanners are X-Ray based, and nobody has done any research whatsoever into the long-term effects of repeated low-dose X-rays.
There has however been research into repeated medical-imaging X-ray doses, which showed notable increases in cancer risk.'
There has been an immense amount of research into the long term effects of low doses of ionising radiation. The problem is that the effects to be measured are much smaller than just about anything else we know about. All of the known effects of location, lifestyle, age, sex etc need to be subtracted and by the time you have done this the measured effect is dependant on the way the other effects are handled. Some studies have shown a health benefit! The reality is that no one knows what the impact is hwowever It is clear that is is insignificant compared to the risks of normal living. In order to be safe and as a precaution the chances of cancer are assumed to scale linearly with the dose and are extraopolated from high doses to dose levels where no effect can actually be measured. Safety limits are set based on this. It is generaly forgotten that everyone is constantly exposed to background radiation and that when you fly it is much higher because of altitude. I am sure scanners will provoke much anxiety but it is not rational anxiety.
I've also been through Heathrow security recently. Several things got my goat.
1) Security checks are bloody slow so you end up with a queue. If you're in a hurry the security staff make no effort whatsoever to speed up what they're doing, even though it's all very routine for them. The only person who suffers is the passenger who could miss their plane (I very nearly did) and get fuck all sympathy from the airline (I very really did, even though they misdirected me to the wrong terminal).
2) I hate people who don't smile on he job. I know they're security staff, but do they really have to have to make a face like a dog's arse when they're on shift? I don't buy the line that they can't be seen to be exercising favouritism - that just seems like a sorry excuse for behaving like a c**t at work. I'm expected to smile at all customers because they are the reason I have a job - I don't see any reason why security staff can't do the same, the miserable gits. The only small satisfaction I got was staring out a particularly stary security guard: A 15-hour flight back to the UK from a nice holiday can make you kinda irritable, and not want to put up with that kind of shit y'know?
3) Bottles of water are removed at security check-in because they're a 'security risk'. Funny how those self-same bottles of water bought from the same retailer are on sale at inflated cost inside the security zone. "Glastonbury", "captive audience", "£10 for a burger" and "milk 'em for all they're worth" are phrases that spring instantly to mind. Perhaps though there really are some amazing security checks carried out on stuff on sale inside the security zone? Perhaps someone could clear up exactly what kind of security checks are conducted on water before it's allowed to be sold at an airport?
4) Some of the security restrictions are utterly contradictory.
• If you carry any liquids in your hand baggage they must be in small containers of 100ml or less and fit comfortably in a single resealable bag
Because 100ml of Nitric Acid won't hurt anyone.
• Do not put lighters in your hand baggage - if you carry a lighter you must keep it on your person during the flight
Because lighters carried on your person won't cause any harm at all.
You can't take matches on board though. Ooh no. They might cause a fire.
Requesting the sex of the operator
So, if I can request that my scanned image is seen my a member of the same sex, can I also insist that it is viewed by a member of the *opposite* sex?
"Anybody selected for scanning, I am sure, will be thinking: “How does this system display my ‘bits’?”"
People, who the f***k cares about your bits? The internets are full of pictures of bits that are much nicer and of much better quality and resolution than the scanned bits of an average pax.
...you may be the sort of guy who likes to flop his cock out at any given opportunity, but I prefer to be a little more selective about who I show my 'bits' to...
Oh, so you were flopping your dick out when going through the scanner?
I'm sorry, they should have told you to just keep your arms up for a few seconds...
Good article, but
I don't think raising health scares helps the argument. I don't know the power levels involved, but these aren't X-rays (ionising electromagnetic radiation). So any exposure is probably similar to using a mobile phone for a few minutes or living within sight of a TV mast for a week.
Otherwise, spot on!
Mobile phones use non-ionizing radio waves. X-rays are much more energetic than even UV light.
But these cameras work a little different than plain x-ray machines. Instead of simply sending a high-intensity beam through a subject and pick up a cross-section on the other side, back-scatter machines shine a lower intensity beam and pick up the reflected light from an array of x-ray sensors. Of course, it's still ionizing radiation and prolonged exposure does add up.
These scanners don't use X-rays
They use mm waves and mm waves are not ionising.
Wrong. They *are* X-Rays
The scanners at Heathrow and Manchester are X-Ray backscatter.
Millimetre-wave scanners are not currently in use anywhere, although there are some such scanners in development.
The consultation however effectively rules mm-wave out as X-Ray backscatter devices are much cheaper and will probably remain so due to source and detector requirements.
My mistake - they are indeed x-ray backscatter.
No, these ARE X-rays.
You are talking rubbish. You don't shine and reflect X-rays. The exposure factors may be different from a standard medical examination but an X-ray photon is an X-ray photon. Some will be transmitted through the subject, some will be absorbed and some will scatter. Scatter and absorption will preferentially occur at lower kVp...
Make all UK airports compulsory nudist areas. Nobody at all allowed through the doors clothed.
Same for Northolt and Brize Norton.
That'll be entertaining
especially on a cold day....
No, some of these scanners do use X-rays.
Use of X-rays on humans without a good medical reason should be illegal.
It's also completely unnecessary when there are passive millimetre wave scanners available.
I had to go through one of these at Schipol......
Or rather, I didn't. Because I recently had shoulder surgery I couldn't raise my arms above my head. Consequently I couldn't go through the machine and had to have the normal 'Metal scan + pat down'.
No more bringing mushies back in my shreddies.
Pervo-scans sound horrible.
However, as a small means of protest, how about ensuring when men get scanned that we have a diamond-tipped stonkon?
Flasher mac, for obvious reasons.
A modest proposal
The pervs watching behind the screen be filmed with the same cameras non-stop and relayed over the airport's public TV. Add to this perv cameras in all TSA offices, including including higher-ranked officers. Level the playing field at least...
a Morton's Fork.
Sex of operator - what about sexual orientation?
If you can choose the sex of the operator that sees the fuzzy picture of your wobbly bits, presumably to reassure the public that said operator is not getting his/her jollies over the pictures, does that 'choice' extend to the sexual orientation of the operator, too?
I would imagine that a homosexual man is as likely* to be as excited by seeing me technically naked as a heterosexual woman. Ditto for a gay woman or straight man for a female passenger.
I still think that having the operator hidden from view is much less of a reassurance than having them in plain sight where they can't take pictures with their phone-cam, make unpleasant remarks to their colleagues about the images on screen, furiously masturbate, etc., etc.
*Yes, I realise the likelihood in this situation is as near to zero as makes no odds.
Prison Camp UK
really, are we all still sooo petrified - let's bring the Great back into Britain and can the perv scans - privacy and modesty is something to be valued highly, let the security be more discreet and advanced.
I think everyone should just mess with the operators. Make the word 'PERV' in blu-tac and stick it to your chest with a bit of superglue.
Poke the new gov to do better than the previous gov here?
Also, I'd like to know what that taser-resistant cloth does to those wily T-rays.
Also also, some good samaritan should buy up those scanners too pervy for the MEPs and give one each to various hacker spaces across europe. I'd do it in a pinch if I had that kind of spare money, but I don't. Somebody call warren buffet for a grant?
I haven't been through a perv scanner and nor would I want to. There doesn't seem to be much point to them though.
On a recent trip to the US I managed to "smuggle" Bear Mace (pepper spray stuff for deterring hungry bears) through two security checkpoints and onto two flights - there was a connecting flight at a european airport. I'd simply forgotten that it was in my rucksack hand luggage but I could well have caused havoc on the plane with the stuff.
Maybe a perv scanner would have picked it up but that's academic since simple baggage checks should have found that item (twice).
Scan as a punishment...
I was going through Heathrow the other day and was in a bit of a rush. The dude told me to take my belt off. My belt doesn't normally beep, so I just walked through the regular scanner normally. This made the man very grumpy. He said something really snarky and derogatory, like I couldn't follow instructions and how much a bother it was. He didn't say it, but I got the strong impression I'd pissed him off.
My belt did end up beeping, so I was then ordered to go for a full body scan as punishment! Literally - a punishment for not doing as the bully boy had ordered!
The full body scan manager then walked over and politely asked me why on earth I was being scanned. No idea!
Anyway, I had the scan, probably got cancer and was made to feel like I'd been put on the naughty step by some pissed off airport drudge.
Many years ago, when they were first trialling the scanners, I was asked if I wanted to go through one. I'd read about them in the nerd blogs, so thought it would be fun. I went through, had the scan, then they SHOWED me the scans. Rear scan only. I could quite clearly see my curvaceous buttock in graphics detail. These scans are NOT fuzzy at all. It's in full grey scale detail. You can EASILY tell if a man is jewish from these scanners, let me tell you!
Anyway, I had the scan. It was not fun. Normally I ask someone to take me to dinner before I show them my cock - I guess I'm going to have to make an exception for airport security!
...clothing that reacts to the radiation, like those old global hypercolour t-shirts, and reveals a hidden pattern made of the words FUCK OFF YOU PERVERTS!
Have you still got it? And do you wantta sell it?
So I want a heterosexual woman manning what ever perv scanner I go through. If I have to show my dangly bits then at least somebody should enjoy it. Ooo what if they are a bit small compared to all the others she will have seen? This may be more dificult than it appears.
You're mixed up
The choice of scanner, X ray or milimetre wave is left to the airport?
Are you seriously suggesting X ray scanners are used to scan people? FFS! I've never heard of such rubbish. X rays should NEVER be used to routinely scan people. Why? Because they're dangerous.
In medical applications, the diagnostic benefits of X rays is weighed up against, and outweights thee risk of the harm X rays cause.
To suggest that one would subject a person to a full body X ray scan is completely ludicrous.
What you're doing is mixing up two different types of scanner which are used for entirely different purposes.
As noted by the poster above, most (all?) perv scanners currently in use in the UK are the X-ray backscatter variety, not millimetre wave.
@ Grumpy Joe
If you care so much about not irradiating your children why on earth are you taking them on a plane in the first place?
Why scan your shoes?
Because some retard really did try to set off a bomb in his shoe on a transatlantic flight a few years back. This one is not a merely theoretical threat.
And that was how successful exactly?
only coz he was a dork did he fail
the existing airport scanners at the time let him through with his bomb twice.
He managed to get on the fucking plane!!!
It was only the fact he was a crap bomb maker and his device failed that hundreds of lives were saved.
Jesus, how little thought did you put into that nugget of wisdom.
Without wishing to detract from the privacy issues, the ionizing radiation dose from a modfern X-ray scanner is a lot less than the radiation dose from being in a metal tube at 35,000 feet altitude for an hour or more.
And in passing, an hour waiting for a train in Aberdeen railway station is even worse than an hour in flight.
supply figures to back up your claim, or it doesn't exist.
figures ... here.
Tried using google? (Include sv in your search words to pick up scientific references quoting radiation dosages, rather than press rubbish by people who don't know what an sv might be).
There's a table about a page in.
Rapiscan Secure 1000 x-ray backscatter body scans (return flight with one set of scans at each embarkation)
Effective radiation dose = 0.12 micro Sv
1.4 minutes flying at airline cruising height
Effective radiation dose = 0.12 micro Sv
Your annual average background radiation dose in the UK is 2700 micro Sv.
Incidentally, in common with all X-ray equipment (and for that matter, aeroplanes) the people most at risk are the staff operating the machines. Scanner operators are exposed every time a person is scanned (if they stand back they get a fractional dosage, but even if security staff are allowed to do that, it's cumulative, for hundreds or thousands of scans per working day. Likewise, airline flight crews get the enhanced radiation dose every working hour at altitude.
(per annum, something like 2-3 times the natural background, based on the above figures).
I'll pass on backing up the flip comment about Aberdeen Railway station. It's well-known that it is built of naturally radioactive rock, and that if it were a nuclear power station it woiuld have to be closed down -- but I don't have time to chase up a reference.