Australian airports to get “modest” body scanners

an example of a full body scan image

An example of the "nude" body scan images currently used in U.S. airports

Australia will roll out full body scanners at airports later this year, but unlike the scanners already in place in the U.S., the devices will not transmit nude images. Instead, “the software will detect potential threats such as weapons and explosives and show their location on a generic outline of a person. If no threat is detected, an ”OK” will appear on the monitor with no outline.”

There are supposed cost savings involved in implementing this particular type of scanner—because the scanner produces stick figure images, there is no requirement to have an officer view the images in a private room. However, given the very public backlash against the full body scanners in the U.S. it seems likely that these scanners have been selected to allay passenger’s privacy concerns.

It certainly seems like a good compromise; very few people would have legitimate concerns about going through this type of scanner. It is unclear what will happen to Australian passengers that refuse to be scanned. In the U.S., passengers have the option of going through the body scanner or submitting to a pat down search. The pat down searches are more intrusive and take longer than going through the scanner, which cause longer wait times for other passengers, which only compounds the complaints many U.S. passengers have with airport security. It would appear the stick figure scanners would handily solve all of these problems and provide the same benefits as the nude image scanners. However, do the scanners provide any real security benefits in the first place?

Greg Henning, an airport security expert does not seem to think so. ”The priority is to plug the holes, not add more glamorous front-of-house terminal screening technology. ‘Body scanners will do nothing to reduce the risk of attacks on airport facilities – such as the suicide bombing of the Moscow terminal, which claimed 35 lives and injured more than 100.”

While there is a great deal of scrutiny for passengers entering the terminal gates, security appears to be woefully inadequate in other areas of the airport. Baggage handlers are often employed on a casual basis and are not subject to police checks. Australian baggage handlers have already been implicated in criminal conspiracies, such as Norman Niass, the former Sydney Airport baggage handler suspected to have been involved in a cocaine smuggling syndicate. It is not a stretch to imagine a terrorist organisation planting a member in the baggage handling team, or tricking an existing smuggling syndicate into unknowingly smuggling a bomb on board a plane.

In many ways, Western governments are still reacting to the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001, even though terrorist groups have clearly adapted and moved on. The last credible attempted bombing by Al Qaeda involved smuggling explosive devices inside toner cartridge boxes placed on cargo planes. Meanwhile, the Australian government will spend 28.5 million dollars to put full body scanners into airports, and one can’t help but feel it’s less about securing our airports and more about providing passengers with the illusion of safety.

Read More: Airport Security Scanners to Keep it Nice by Tim Barlass

Airport security scanners to keep it nice

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Categories: Science, Technology

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4 Comments on “Australian airports to get “modest” body scanners”

  1. Joel
    April 2, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    After reading about other people’s experiences in the US TSA scanners and going through them myself I must say although I don’t mind been seen on the scanner (the res is actually quite low and quality as well from the samples I’ve seen here) it was still uncomfortable, I’ll explain why.

    I went through the scanner, and there is this massive dude who makes you stand in front of him after going through the scanner. You stand sideways in front of him, waiting, as he waits for the radio call from the scanner operator to say it’s ok. Those 3 seconds, were quite strange. But I guess you would get used to it… it was my first time.

  2. carlene
    April 12, 2011 at 3:34 am #


  3. James Hill
    April 12, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Hi Carlene.

    Firstly, I said that Norman was implicated, not convicted, which is a key difference. Secondly, Norman Niass is mentioned as being charged as part of the conspiracy to import cocaine into Australia via the Sydney airport baggage handlers in the following articles:

    Was I incorrect in listing him as a baggage handler? Was he alleged to have had some other role in the organisation? If so, my apologies. If you can point me to an article that clarifies this, I’ll gladly amend the article.

  4. Cap
    June 16, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Very intelligent men say these scanners cause cancer!

    Travel in the U.S. is down from 18 billion to 4 billion dollars and there’s a reason for that…people refusing to fly because of the intrusive machines!

    I recommend watching these 2 videos from you tube:

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