A new European Union ruling has banned any further deployment of airport X-ray body scanning machines while tests to establish any potential health risks are undertaken. The ruling comes into force with immediate effect, though existing systems that are being used for operational tests can continue their trials for another year.
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a European Union legal framework on security scanners, allowing Member States to use them under strict operational and technical conditions.
Member States have been trialling the scanners since early 2010, after a passenger attempted to blow up an aircraft (on December 25, 2009) flying from Amsterdam to Detroit with plastic explosives he had hidden in his underwear. As a common EU-wide framework, the new legislation legally allows EU members and their airports to replace current security systems with security scanners. It also ensures the uniform application of security rules at all airports and provides strict and mandatory safeguards to ensure compliance with fundamental rights and the protection of health.
As part of protecting passengers’ health and safety, x-ray scanners, such as those on trial at Manchester Airport in the UK, have been omitted from the list of authorised methods of passenger screening while safety tests are carried out. Scanners using other technology, such as millimetre-wave cameras, have been approved. However, airports already trialling x-ray scanners are permitted to continue using this technology until November 2012.
Member states and airports are not obligated to deploy security scanners, but if they decide to use them, they must comply with the operational conditions and performance standards set at European level.
The European Commission’s Vice President Siim Kallas stated: “Security scanners are a valuable alternative to existing screening methods and are very efficient in detecting both metallic and non-metallic objects.”
Scanner technology has proved particularly popular in that it reduces the need for manual searches, otherwise known as ‘pat-downs’.
Other minimum conditions have been set out in the legislation, such as that… security scanners shall not store, retain, copy, print or retrieve images; any unauthorised access and use of the image is prohibited and shall be prevented; the human reviewer analysing the image shall be in a separate location, and the image shall not be linked to the screened person and others.
Passengers must now be informed about such conditions and are given the option to opt out from a control with scanners, and instead be subject to an alternative method of screening.
The Commission has stated that: “By laying down specific operational conditions and by providing passengers with the possibility of opting out, the legislation safeguards fundamental rights and the principles recognised in particular by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”