Claims on behalf of authorities that naked body scanner images are immediately destroyed after passengers pass through new x-ray backscatter devices have been proven fraudulent after it was revealed that naked images of Indian film star Shahrukh Khan were printed out and circulated by airport staff at Heathrow in London.
UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said last week that the images produced by the scanners were deleted “immediately” and airport staff carrying out the procedure are fully trained and supervised.
“It is very important to stress that the images which are captured by body scanners are immediately deleted after the passenger has gone through the body scanner,” Adonis told the London Evening Standard.
Adonis was forced to address privacy concerns following reports that the images produced by the scanners broke child pornography laws in the UK. When the scanners were first introduced, it was also speculated that images of famous people would be ripe for abuse as the pictures produced by the devices make genitals “eerily visible” according to journalists who have investigated trials of the technology.
However, the Transport Secretary’s assurances were demolished after it was revealed on the BBC’s Jonathan Ross show Friday that Indian actor Shahrukh Khan had passed through a body scan and later had the image of his naked body printed out and circulated by Heathrow security staff.
“I was in London recently going through the airport and these new machines have come up, the body scans. You’ve got to see them. It makes you embarrassed – if you’re not well endowed,” said Khan, referring to how the scans produce clear images of a person’s genitals.
“You walk into the machine and everything – the whole outline of your body – comes out,” he said.
“I was a little scared. Something happens [inside the scans], and I came out. Then I saw these girls – they had these printouts. I looked at them. I thought they were some forms you had to fill. I said ‘give them to me’ – and you could see everything inside. So I autographed them for them,” stated Khan.
The story was carried by Yahoo News under the headline “Shah Rukh signs off sexy body-scan printouts at Heathrow”.
Khan’s reference to “girls” with printouts of his naked body scan can only refer to female airport security staff responsible for processing the images produced by the scanners, “professionals” who are supposed to instantly delete the images, according to Lord Adonis.
The revelation that airport security staff are completely abusing any notion of the professionalism promised by authorities by printing out and circulating images of naked body scans should set alarm bells ringing, especially in light of the fact that such images of minors break child pornography laws. British authorities have made it mandatory for travelers to submit to the naked body scanners when asked and have overturned previous rules that prevented under 18’s from passing through the devices.
Within days of the devices being introduced at Heathrow, staff have abused their professionalism and printed out naked scans of a famous actor for their own titillation.
We were promised all along that the body scanners “increased privacy” because they were only accessible to a single staff member who had no personal contact with the passenger taking the scan, in addition to the assurance that the images could not be saved and were instantly deleted. It in fact turns out that airport staff have been saving, printing and circulating naked body scans in complete violation of these supposed guarantees.
Furthermore, we were told that the identity of the person undergoing the virtual strip search would also be kept private. The fact that Heathrow employees must have known that the actor was about to take the body scan in order to print out copies of the image also proves this claim to be a total fallacy.
The abuse of the naked body scan images in this instance is a total violation of every data protection law in the UK. Far from treating the story in a comical manner, Khan should be filing a very expensive lawsuit and preparing for a successful and lucrative outcome.
In the meantime, the revelation that the naked body scanner images are being freely printed out and circulated by airport security staff should prove to be the death knell for plans on behalf of governments worldwide to institute the scanners on a widespread basis.
Courts have consistently found that strip searches are only legal when performed on a person who has already been found guilty of a crime or on arrestees pending trial where a reasonable suspicion has to exist that they are carrying a weapon. Subjecting masses of people to blanket strip searches in airports reverses the very notion of innocent until proven guilty.
Barring people from flying and essentially treating them like terrorists for refusing to be humiliated by the virtual strip search is a clear breach of the basic human right of freedom of movement. Security experts agree that such scanners would not even have stopped the incident that has been exploited to justify their widespread introduction – the Christmas Day underwear bomber.
Not only have the scanners proven to be a total violation of privacy, but major international radiation safety groups are now warning of the health risks they pose.
Despite governments claiming that backscatter x-ray systems produce radiation too low to pose a threat, the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety concluded in their report that governments must justify the use of the scanners and that a more accurate assessment of the health risks is needed.
Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, according to the report, adding that governments should consider “other techniques to achieve the same end without the use of ionizing radiation.”
“The Committee cited the IAEA’s 1996 Basic Safety Standards agreement, drafted over three decades, that protects people from radiation. Frequent exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” reported Bloomberg.Scridb filter