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Commission responds to Sarah Ludford's parliamentary question about "naked body scanners"

March 25, 2010 5:00 PM

WRITTEN QUESTION E-0234/10 by Baroness Sarah Ludford (ALDE) to the Commission

Subject: Body scanners for use in airports

The European Commission is working on a report with a view to a possible regulation on the use of body scanners in European airports, which raise serious issues regarding personal privacy. Commissioner-designate Viviane Reding said in her hearing in the European Parliament that body scanners must (as well as being voluntary in Member States and involving no health implications) be a proportionate response to the threat and provide for immediate destruction of images.

But according to the leading American privacy organisation EPIC, which has based its report on documents obtained through freedom of information requests, the Transportation Security Administration, part of the US Department of Homeland Security, has included in tender specifications and vendor contracts a requirement that body scanners have the capacity to store, record and transfer images. This could lead to deeply damaging unauthorised disclosure of sensitive personal data and apparently contradicts public pledges by the US administration that images would be destroyed.

How will the Commission ensure, whether through regulation or through physical specifications, that any body scanners used in Europe really will bar the storage and transfer of images? Whom is the Commission consulting with regard to data protection issues for its forthcoming report? Will the Commission pledge that any EU regulation on the use of body scanners would include a provision that the specifications for tender include a requirement that there should be no facility to store, record or transfer images?

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E-0234/10EN Answer given by Mr Kallas on behalf of the Commission (15.3.2010)

As already confirmed by the Commission at several occasions any further step on a possible use of security scanners at EU airports will be based on a careful prior analysis of all aspects taking into account the Resolution of the European Parliament from 2008 . The analysis will include the assessment of the impact of use of security scanners on fundamental rights, in particular data protection and human dignity. The next step will be to present a report on the possible use of security scanners to the Parliament and to the Council of Ministers.

Furthermore, the Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to oral question H-0001/10 by Mr Ivo Belet.