Airport won't X-ray children


Manchester Airport's X-ray security scanning trial won't be snapping images of children, after a rights group raised concerns the plan might be illegal.

The system uses an X-ray scanner to check what people are carrying, so they no longer need to be patted down by security staff before boarding their plane. The images are viewed by staff in a separate room, and destroyed immediately after the passenger leaves the security area, Manchester Airport said.

Following the trial's announcement, Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) raised concerns with Manchester Airport that the images, which show the outline of a naked body, breach the Protection of Children Act.

Until the issue is sorted out, the X-ray scanning will only be used on people over the age of 18 - and, as before, only on those who volunteer. The trial is set to begin in two weeks, so no images have yet been taken.

A spokeswoman for Manchester Airport said the issue fell into a "grey area" legally. She said the airport was working with the appropriate agencies to sort out the issue by the time the trial goes live, but admitted they "may not ever have children using it."

Rule of law

Terri Dowty, the director of ARCH, told IT PRO that the airport was quick to act, but added that this isn't a new issue.

"This is an issue we've dealt with in the past," she said, noting ARCH has successfully brought similar complaints to the Metropolitan Police and the Department of Transport after they tried to use scanners, too.

"The problem is one of law. It's portrayed in some ways as some kind of pedophile hysteria. It's not, it's a rule of law issue," she said, explaining that taking indecent photos of children was illegal regardless of the use, even with parental consent. "The law does not allow the use of these images because they produce indecent images."

"The member of staff on the scanner is committing a quite serious criminal offence. It's not right to ask employees to do that," she added.

"If people don't like that, people need to go to parliament it's not a matter of opinion, it's one of fact it's what the law says."

Marketing with fear

So if these scanners can never be used on children, why do people keep trying to use them? "There's aggressive marketing of these devices and it fits a serious fear," she said.

"What we find in a lot of new tech is that they are marketing driven," she added. "Somebody wants to sell a technology will identify a particular fear...PR people pick up on whatever people's fears are and sell a product to meet that fear."

"We're taking lots of flack, people are saying we're making planes fall out of the sky," she said, adding the issue isn't about protecting children from potential pedophiles. "I'd be dismayed if this turns into headline grabbing saying 'pedos are at our airports'. I'm pretty sure Manchester Airport's employees are not in fact pedophiles."