More passengers agree to full-body scan in UK airport trial
Helen Carter goes to Manchester to see the scanner that produces a ghostly naked image in action
The full-body scanner on trial at Manchester airport consists of two Tardis-like blue boxes that passengers stand between and produces a ghostly naked image with curves and genitals eerily visible.
Since the Detroit airline bombing incident on Christmas Day the number of passengers agreeing to be body scanned has increased from 72% to 92%, airport authorities say.
Earlier this week privacy campaigners said that the images were so graphic they amounted to "virtual strip-searching" and called for safeguards to protect passengers' privacy.
Staff at Manchester airport pointed out that the images were deleted "within seconds" of being captured and checked and could not be stored.
But Momota Khanom, who is in her 30s, from Leeds, believes Muslim women may be concerned. "I can see why it is being introduced, to improve security, and that is absolutely fine," she said. "But for Muslim women, who dress modestly and choose not to expose themselves, it is going to be a big issue. I think it will prevent many British Muslim women travelling and they may feel imprisoned in the UK.
"I do not have an issue with it myself, but I think it will cause problems for others." She urged the airport to consider having women-only operators viewing the images of Muslim women.
The government is taking steps towards changing EU policy to make airport body scanners compulsory. Gordon Brown has ordered the technology in the wake of the airline bomb plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and said the government would do everything in its power to tighten security.
The £80,000 RapiScan machine uses backscatter technology to capture images. Each scan takes around seven seconds and is viewed in a separate, secure room. The passenger, and the security staff standing with them, cannot see the image.
When the trial began at Manchester airport a Sun journalist phoned to ask if they could send some Page 3 girls through the body scanner. The request was firmly refused.
The airport's head of customer experience, Sarah Barrett, says there is nothing pornographic or erotic about the images and they are completely anonymous.
"We have not put children through the scanner, they are not part of the trial," she said. "We have been working closely with CEOP [The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre] and also the government to conform with legalities."
If the scanners become mandatory, Manchester will need up to 19 for its three terminals.
Terry Whittock, of RapiScan Systems, which produced the machine, said the Detroit bomb was "exactly the type of threat we are anticipating with the machine".
A security analyst, Chris Yates, said there was no such thing as the ultimate security device, but the body scanner provided extra capability.
"Nobody can say whether it would have prevented Detroit," he said. "But it is one more tool in the arsenal for airport security staff."