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January 18, 2010

UK full-body airport scanners raise human rights fears

     London: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of UK has written to Home Secretary Alan Johnson raising concerns over the proposed introduction of full-body scanners at airports across the country. It fears the body scanners could breach an individual's right to privacy as laid out in the Human Rights Act. The EHRC has said that the proposals are likely to have a negative impact on privacy, especially in concern to certain groups such as disabled people, the elderly, children and the transgendered community. "The commission fully accepts the Government's responsibility to protect the safety and security of air travellers. The right to life is the ultimate human right and we support the Government reviewing security in the light of recent alleged terrorist activity," The Telegraph quoted John Wadham, group director legal at the EHRC, as saying. "However, the Government needs to ensure that measures to protect this right also take into account the need to be proportionate in its counter-terrorism proposals and ensure that they are justified by evidence and effectiveness," he added. Meanwhile, privacy campaigners have welcomed the EHRC's move. "The EHRC is completely right to question the use of full-body scanners in airports," said Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch. "They are another intrusion into our privacy in the name of protection, yet we know that they are not fail-safe and could see airport authorities becoming reliant on a deeply flawed method of detection," he added. Earlier, the campaigners had said that the images created by the 80,000 pounds scanners are so graphic that they amount to "virtual strip-searching" and had called for safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers involved. The Gordon Brown government also faces demands to exempt under 18s from the scans or face the delays of introducing new legislation to ensure airport security staff do not commit offences under child pornography laws. They also face demands to ensure that the images from the scanners, including those of celebrities, do not end up on the Internet.
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