Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is looking into buying seven “Whole Body Imaging” (WBI) scanners for major airports across the country after what they consider to have been a successful pilot project at Kelowna airport in BC recently.
The US already has these devices in full operation at 19 airports. (including Baltimore, Phoenix Sky Harbour, Tulsa International, Los Angeles, Denver, Alburquerque, NY Kennedy, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, Baltimore-Washington International, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Reagan National near Washington)
As you may or may not know, these scanners do a 360 degree scan of the individual, allowing officers to see through the clothes of the scannee with images clearly detailing stuff like genitalia and/or whether or not a woman has breast implants. (Oh, and also guns, knives and bottles of shampoo.)
Reporter Jim Spellman of CNN tried out the technology in Baltimore:
My face was blurred out but the rest of my body was clear as day. She (the officer) rotated the black and white 3-D image so I could see every contour of my body, including my private parts. I could see sweat under my arms, the rivets in my jeans and a pack of gum in my back pocket.
Authorities reassure us that:
- Faces will be blurred so you are not identifiable;
- No images will be stored in any database (or collected for a YouTube Hottest Travellers montage);
- There will be officers manning the walk-in scanner who will see the passengers but not the naked images, and there will be other, completely different officers manning the surveillance centre who will see the images, but not the passengers.
All of the above assurances come with a cross-our-hearts-and-hope-to-die guarantee.
The point of these scanners is, of course, to catch people smuggling terrorist weapons onboard that can’t be spotted by the usual metal detectors. Items like ceramic guns or plastic explosives taped to their johnsons.
So far they’ve never caught anyone with anything except a few genital warts.
Privacy groups all over the world are freaking out. Last year when the European Union proposed installing these puppies in airports across the country the German government laid down its outraged hammy fist and said “Nein!” A spokesman for the interior ministry said:
I can tell you in all clarity that we will not take part in this nonsense!
Other European countries went along with the testing period, but most sent the scanners back.
Many passengers who have already been scanned have no idea to what degree they are being revealed by the scanner.
In response to concerns raised by our privacy commissioner, Canada is saying that once the scanners are in place passengers would have the option of being scanned or being patted down as per usual.
Isn’t that sweet? How long do you suppose that would last when they figure out they can do away with all those security guards and have us just stroll through the Stripmaster 2000?
Okay, I know we have very little privacy these days anyway and the world is a dangerous place so the government needs to look out for us and these scanners are all very businesslike and anonymous, etc., etc…
BUT, this seems like a disproportionally extreme response to a problem that may or may not exist and if so, with a very tiny percentage of travellers. And, as long as there are human beings manning these things there is a huge potential for all sorts of zany antics.
I already hate every single thing about the whole process of air travel. And when criminals caught in the act of committing heinous crimes are afforded more rights to privacy than air travellers, I’m thinking it’s time to find less invasive ways of getting around.
On a completely unrelated topic, our bloggy friend, the Deep Friar’s sister has lost her dog. He could be anywhere in Kanata/Ottawa. So if you see this lovely Nova Scotia Duck Toller let the Friar know or call the numbers on this kijiji link. The dog’s name is Tipper.