Body Scanners Breaks Britain Child Porn Laws

The rapid introduction of full body scanners at British airports threatens to breach child protection laws which ban the creation of indecent images of children.

Privacy campaigners claim the images created by the machines are so graphic they amount to “virtual strip-searching” and have called for safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers involved.

Ministers now face having 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 from civil liberties groups for safeguards to ensure that images from the £80,000 scanners, including those of celebrities, do not end up on the internet. The Department for Transport confirmed that the “child porn” problem was among the “legal and operational issues” now under discussion in Whitehall after Gordon Brown’s announcement on Sunday that he wanted to see their “gradual” introduction at British airports.

A 12-month trial at Manchester airport of scanners which reveal naked images of passengers including their genitalia and breast enlargements, only went ahead last month after under-18s were exempted.

The decision followed a warning from Terri Dowty, of Action for Rights of Children, that the scanners could breach the Protection of Children Act 1978, under which it is illegal to create an indecent image or a “pseudo-image” of a child. Passengers also pass through a metal detector before they can board their plane. Airport officials say the scanner image is only seen by a single security officer in a remote location before it is deleted.

The disclosure came as Downing Street insisted British intelligence information that the Detroit plane suspect tried to contact radical Islamists while a student in London was passed on to the US.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s name was included in a dossier of people believed to have made attempts to deal with extremists, but he was not singled out as a particular risk, Brown’s spokesman said. President Barack Obama has criticised US intelligence agencies for failing to piece together information about the 23-year-old that should have stopped him boarding the flight.

Brown’s spokesman said “There was security information about this individual’s activities and that was shared with the US authorities.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk

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