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European Union: Public Consultation on Impact of Body Scanners on Human Rights

(Dec. 9, 2008) Regulation 300/2008, which was adopted on March 11, 2008, by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, establishes common standards in civil aviation security. It is designed to protect individuals and goods across the European Union by thwarting terrorist attacks against aircraft, such as hijacking, sabotage, and other unlawful actions.

The European Commission is required to prepare a list of general measures to implement the Regulation, including appropriate passenger screening methods. The Commission is contemplating the use of body scanners as a possible means to effectively screen people prior to boarding an aircraft. Body scanners produce an opaque image of a person, indicating whether the person carries any hidden object. The Commission noted that walking through metal detectors does not produce accurate results, because metal detectors do not alert aviation authorities to the presence of non-metallic items that may pose a danger. Moreover, metal detector use is often combined with manual searches, which are found to be intrusive by passengers.

The European Parliament, in a Resolution adopted on October 23, 2008, requested the Commission to undertake the following actions prior to adopting the use of body scanners:

· carry out an impact assessment of scanner use on fundamental rights;

· carry out a scientific and medical evaluation of the possible health consequences of exposure to body scanning technology;

· consult the European Data Protection Supervisor and the Fundamental Rights Agency; and

· carry out a financial, commercial, and cost-benefit assessment.

In order to address these issues raised by the European Parliament and in consultation with the agencies suggested, the Commission prepared a questionnaire, which is open for public response until December 19, 2008.

In addition, the Commission established a Body Scanners Task Force to facilitate public–private communication on the issue. The initial meeting of the Task Force, which is open to the public, is scheduled for December 12, 2008, in Brussels. (Air Transport Portal of the European Commission, Public Consultations, The Impact of the Use of Body Scanners in the Field of Aviation Security on Human Rights, Privacy, Personal Dignity, Health and Data Protection, Sept. 30, 2008, available at