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Security scanners

The attempted terrorist attack of 25 December 2009 involving explosives concealed on a passenger on Northwest Airlines served as a reminder that aviation security is facing new types of threats, against which the traditional security technologies currently deployed at airports are not fully effective.

In June 2011 the Commission prepared three legislative proposals on the use of security scanners at the EU airports, following consultations with all interested parties, a Commission Communication on the use of security scanners , released in June 2010 and an impact assessment pdf - 506 KB [506 KB] . The Communication confirmed security scanners as a valid alternative to currently allowed screening methods as they are capable of detecting both metallic and non-metallic items carried on a person. Reactions by the co-legislators, the Parliament and the Council, were encouraging in paving the way for regulating the use of this technology at EU level.

Consequently, in November 2011 the European Commission adopted an EU legal framework on security scanners . The main elements of this legislation are:

  • The use of security scanners at EU airports is optional for Member States / airports.
  • If EU Member States / airports decided to use them, EU minimum operational conditions and performance requirements are applicable, in particular:
    • only security scanners which do not use ionizing radiation can be deployed and used for passenger screening;
    • security scanners shall not store, retain, copy, print or retrieve images; any unauthorized access and use of the image is prohibited and shall be prevented;
    • the human reviewer analyzing the image shall be in separate location so that he/she cannot see the screened passenger, the image shall not be linked to the screened person and shall be blurred or obscured to prevent the identification of the face of the passenger;
    • any technical devices capable of storing, copying or photographing or otherwise recording images shall not be allowed in the separate location where the image is analyzed;
    • a passenger may request that the image of his/her body is analyzed by a human reviewer of the gender of his/her choice;
    • passengers must be given the possibility of opting out from a security scanner. In this case the passenger shall be screened by an alternative screening method including at least a hand search;
    • passengers must be fully informed on the technology used before being screened.