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Airport scanners go live today, kids included

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Body scanners went into operation at Heathrow and Manchester airports this morning. People chosen by security staff will not be allowed onto flights without going through the machine from now on.

Lord Adonis said he expected more machines to go live later this month, with further examples to be introduced at Birmingham airport soon.

Anyone selected for the scanners must go through the machine - there is no option to choose a pat-down search instead. Children can also be selected for scanning - despite early concerns that taking such images could breach child pornography laws. A spokesman for the Department of Transport said this was a proportional response on national security grounds.

A spokeswoman at Heathrow confirmed the machines had gone live, but said it was too early to gauge passenger response.

The government has issued an interim code of practice which requires airport operators to put in place a privacy policy to protect passengers. This should include putting the security officer viewing the images out of sight of passengers. People chosen for scanning can ask for the images to be viewed by someone of the same sex.

Images will be deleted once scanning is completed. Security officers must obtain appropriate security clearances before receiving training - and that training must be approved by the Department of Transport.

The code also said that passengers should be informed as early as possible that they may face a pervscanner - ideally this should be before tickets are purchased.

The code states: "Passengers must not be selected on the basis of personal characteristics (i.e. on a basis that may constitute discrimination such as gender, age, race or ethnic origin)."

Finally, scanners must be operated in accordance with detailed protocols which are not published because, we are told, they contain security sensitive information which includes selection criteria on those chosen for scanning.

Lord Adonis's statement, and a link to the code of practice, is here. ®

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