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APF Policy Statement re Body Scanning at Airports

Version of 12 February 2010

The APF first established a Policy on this matter in October 2008, copy below.

On 10 January 2010, a senior executive from the US Department of Homeland Security summoned the federal Minister for Transport to a meeting at Sydney airport. See US raises full body scanners in fly-by visit over terrorism (SMH, 11 Jan 2010).

On 20 January 2010, the APF, in conjunction with NSW CCL, Liberty Victoria, QCCL and CLA, wrote to the Minister for Transport, expressing concern about decisions being made without proper evaluation, and without consultation with interested parties.

On 31 January 2010, a Ministerial adviser leaked to the media advance information about a forthcoming announcement by the Rudd Government, to the effect that a great more money was going to be spent on airport security. See Passengers face full-body scan (Herald Sun, 31 Jan 2010).

On 9 February 2010, a verbal announcement was made. It was accompanied by a great deal of double-speak by Rudd and Transport Minister Albanese, but no hard information. The message was 'quite simply, full body-scanning is going to be imposed, and that's that. As for privacy, just trust us'.

The resurgence of interest by the Australian Government reflects opportunism by the suppliers of the gadgetry. They have used their influence over the US Administration, which has in turn pressed the switch and pressured its allies into complying with the needs of US business. Meanwhile, body scanning technology has been severely criticised by the head of Interpol (SC Magazine, 1 Feb 2010), and EU Justice Commissioner (NYT, 12 January 2010).


The APF's Policy Statement

1. Public safety is a human rights and privacy issue

2. The public demands effective protections

3. The protections have to be effective against people who are trying to beat the system

4. There's plenty of scope to beat such systems, and hence they must be tested to make sure they deliver on their promise

5. We've seen no evidence of proper testing and evaluation

6. Assertions by suppliers of security equipment can't be trusted

7. There are already some publicly-known limitations on the effectiveness of scanners, e.g. relating to items inserted in body cavities

8. There are health issues that we all know far too little about. See, for example, the NYT of 8 January 2010

9. There are privacy issues that concern a lot of people

10. The Government has a policy position that PIAs need to be performed for all projects that have significant potential for privacy invasiveness

11. The Government has an obligation to perform a PIA, including the publication of information about the technology and the testing that has been performed on it, and consultation with the relevant public interest groups

12. Neither the public generally, nor the APF or civil liberties organisations, has been provided with information on the technology and its application, or consulted regarding its implementation

13. If the USA insists on the use of body-scanners, even if their limited effectiveness is insufficient justification for their intrusiveness, their use can be limited to passengers bound for the USA


Version of 23 October 2008

The Office of Transport Security announced in October 2008 that it was commencing airport trials of a scanning technology that presents a display of the human body much as if the person were naked.

It does not appear that there had been any prior public consultation process, nor any consultation with representative and advocacy groups.

On the basis of the media reports about the Office's announcement, the APF makes the following observations:

  1. Any scheme that has significant potential to intrude into privacy, in any of its forms, needs to be the subject of a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). A preliminary PIA is necessary even before trials of such a nature are undertaken.
  2. The Office claims that privacy is protected because "the officer examining the images is located away from the screening lane and cannot see [the person concerned]". This suggests a serious lack of appreciation of the nature of privacy. Many people regard the appearance of their naked bodies as being private, and are concerned about a breach of this expectation whether or not the person looking at the image knows who they are.
  3. Any privacy-intrusive measure requires justification, and exposure of the justification to review. It is far from clear what the problem is that this technology is meant to address, and far from clear that it is any more effective or efficient in addressing that problem than are other, less privacy-intrusive alternatives.
  4. The trials should be halted, and a PIA conducted.
  5. This technology exposes the serious limitations on current privacy laws. They are limited to protection of 'personal information' and do not apply to the intrusion involved in depersonalised body-scanning.

Resources

The tiny amount of public information available on the project appears to be as follows:

The Department later produced a Report, which failed to provide the information needed, and which was produced without any consultation with anyone except suppliers and bureaucrats.

Media Reports include:


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Created: 23 October 2008 - Last Amended: 12 February 2010 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 11 January 2009
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