EESC condemns body scanners as a breach of fundamental rights

(EDRI) On 16 February 2011, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) issued its opinion on the use of body scanners in EU airports.

The EESC has opposed the eventual adoption of any measures that would introduce body scanners on an EU-wide level, and feel that the Commission Communication on the use of security scanners does not respect three basic criteria: necessity, proportionality and legality.

The document also criticises the Commission for changing the term “body scanners” to “security scanners”, and outlines four central critiques with regard to the Commission Communication, namely, proportionality, fundamental rights, health risks and passenger rights .

The document urges the Commission to produce a thorough proportionality test in order to determine the necessity of their implementation versus alternative measures. The EESC suggests that the Commission seriously consider alternatives and that it might be better to wait for more precise and less intrusive technology which can recognise security hazards.

The EESC objects to the infringement of fundamental rights as a trade-off for public security. The costs to fundamental rights are three fold:  personal privacy, data privacy and the right to human dignity. To further
underline the inherent risks, the document cites a case in a Florida airport where 35 000 naked scans were recorded by officers and distributed on the Internet.

As there exists no code of best practices or conclusive proof that these scanners do not pose health risks to individuals, the EESC requests that the Commission provide a thorough scientific examination proving that passengers and personnel who frequently fly will not be exposed to any health risks.

The Committee also reminded the Commission that its Communication did not include guarantees of effective recourse for passengers and personnel undergoing the scans, and also failed to include guarantees that passengers will not obliged to undergo body scanning, ensuring individuals reserve the right to ‘opt out’ while not suffering longer wait times, more intrusive pat-downs, or be prevented from flying.

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