See-through scanners need scrutiny
Some airports overseas are rushing into service full body-revealing scanners. Australia trialled them in 2008 in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide: after a full report, the government had no plans to introduce them...until pressure in early 2010 from the USA after the "underpants bomb" fiasco. Four civil liberties groups (including CLA) and the Australian Privacy Foundation are asking the Minister to hold a full public consultation and privacy assessment, before deciding whether or not to introduce scanners here.
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Group asks Minister for full public consultation over body scanners
CLA and three other civil liberties groups, along with the Australian Privacy Foundation, are asking Transport Minister Anthony Albanese not to introduce full body scanners without fully consulting the people and developing a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) first.
“Threats to life and limb are the grossest form of assault on civil liberties and privacy, and suitable countermeasures are highly desirable,” the Group of Five says in a letter emailed to the Minister in mid-Jan 2010.
But, the groups have said publicly for some time, full body scanners are extraordinarily intrusive and revealing, and strip people of their privacy. “Assessments (of the benefits of full body scanners) need to be conducted calmly and professionally, and to be based on evidence rather than mere assertions or promises,” the letter says.
“They need to focus on the proposed measure's effectiveness, including effectiveness against parties that seek to circumvent the technology, practicality in the contexts of use, and impacts and implications including safety, human rights generally, and privacy in particular,” the group tells the Minister.
Noting that the department has taken a ‘measured’ approach to the issue over the past two years, including by conducting trials, the letter says that well-established guidelines exist for Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). In a response to inquiries by CLA in early-2009, the Department of Transport said: “The results obtained from the (Advanced Technology Trials) will inform possible future approaches to aviation passenger screening technology. At this time (May 2009) there has been no decision to implement any of the technologies trialled in Australia.
“I can advise that (the final report) will include a recommendation that further consultation with the public and relevant interest groups be held prior to making decisions on implementation of any of the technologies trialled,” the Department of Transport wrote in May 2009.
The combined civil liberties/privacy foundation letter aims to hold the Minister to his department’s commitment. Signatories are President of CLA, Dr Kristine Klugman; NSWCCL President Cameron Murphy; Liberty Victoria President Michael Pearce; Queensland CCL President Michael Cope; and Australian Privacy Foundation Chair, Prof Roger Clarke.
Anyone else who would like to inform the Minister of their views can write to: The Hon. Anthony Albanese Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
USA unites cross-party to oppose scanners
Meanwhile the Chicago Times reports that privacy advocates in the USA are not prepared to accept the use of full-body scanners as routine screening system at the nation's airports.
"We don't need to look at naked 8-year-olds and grandmothers to secure airplanes," Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, said. "Are we really going to subject two million people per day to that? I think it's a false argument to say we have to give up all of our personal privacy in order to have security."
A conservative freshman in the House, Chaffetz won a large, bipartisan majority last year for an amendment to oppose the government's use of body-image scanners as the primary screening system for air travelers. He was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the scanners are the equivalent of a "virtual strip search."
The pro-privacy stand does not follow the traditional ideological lines; Republicans and Democrats have united on the issue now and in the past. See Chicago Tribune article » ...
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