Most people would choose to avoid taking their clothes off in public, given the chance, so when the Labour government forced the installation of full-body or ‘naked’ scanners at UK airports, some travellers began to fear for their modesty.
Five months later, as the machines become commonplace at regional airports, holidaymakers have begun to accept the scanners as a necessity, with 90% of Brits declaring themselves content with current security measures. The use of biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, has also been well received.
The figures, which were collected by software firm, Unisys, led organisers to conclude that privacy was a secondary concern for people travelling by plane. Critics might think that response unusual, however, considering the amount of anger and confusion that has plagued full-body scanners since their introduction in October 2009.
In February, for example, two women forfeited a flight to Pakistan after refusing to undergo a full-body scan. The women were due to fly out of Manchester Airport, unaware that they were about to become the first people to decline the infamous machines. The problem escalated at Heathrow Airport last month, but for an entirely different reason.
Security guard, John Laker, used the scanner to take a photo of a colleague’s naked body, marking the first time that the machine has been used to a nefarious end. With two ‘firsts’ in as many months, travellers could be forgiven for thinking that the scanner’s newfound popularity is skin-deep, at best.
According to Unisys, the British Airports Authority is equally optimistic about the scanner’s future. Neil Fisher, boss at Unisys, believes that more work needs to be done to prevent terrorism, however – ‘what we have done so far is react to threats as they occur, rather than looking at the complete picture.’