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For sale: Six European virtual strip machines

MEPs to flog peep-scanner basement stash

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Anyone paranoid or pervy enough to have a full body scanner on their shopping list could do worse than have a look at the European Parliament's 'for sale' board.

Strasbourg is offloading half a dozen full body scanners it bought a mere three years ago, when post-9/11 fears about terrorism were still running at feverish levels.

Half the scanners were sent to Strasbourg, the other three to the Parliament's sometime home in Brussels. They weren't put into service, but apparently held in readiness for any future terrorist alerts.

Unfortunately for managers in Strasbourg, and the security consultant that recommended the purchase, MEPs take a rather dim view of a technology which allows security personnel to virtually strip subjects to their undies and beyond.

MEPs overwhelmingly backed an October resolution on a Commission proposal on rolling the technology out in European airports which said: "The draft measure, far from being merely technical, has a serious impact on the right to privacy, the right to data protection and the right to personal dignity, and therefore needs to be accompanied by strong and adequate safeguards."

It demanded that the Commission carry out a range of assessments into the scanning technology's effect on "fundamental rights", its physiological effects and its economic impact.

At the time, it would appear they were largely ignorant that their own Parliament had six scanners, ready to be deployed at the first whiff of a terrorist assault.

Now, according to the EU Observer, the European Parliament's secretary-general, Harald Romer, has told MEPs in the budgetary control committee that the Parliament will sidetrack any embarrassment over the issue by flogging off the surplus scanners.

Markus Ferber,a German MEP sitting on the budgetary control committee told the EUobserver, "I asked Mr Romer what he intended to do with these machines, since MEPs voted against the use of such scanners in EU airports, without being aware that the parliament itself had them in the basement."

Apparently, Romer told Ferber that his preferred option would be to sell the scanners.

Quite who would want to buy half a dozen four-year-old scanners is anyone's guess - particularly as MEPs seem intent on clamping down on wider use of the technology.

The super-paranoid may be interested in ensuring that anyone ushered into their presence is not packing heat or a wire - so Mafia kingpins, third world despots and the like are one possibility.

Alternatively, being able to quickly check out exactly what is under layers of clothing might also come in useful in other walks of life. Porn barons could perhaps speed up the audition process by having candidates walk through the scanners rather than waste time doffing their kit.

But surely the MEPs would balk at offloading their unwanted scanners to such unsavoury types. Perhaps the kindest option would be to keep them in the basement and just wheel them out at Christmas and leaving dos. At least it would give the MEPs' photocopiers a rest. ®

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