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Parliament sets conditions for airport body scanners

(STRASBOURG) - The European parliament backed Wednesday the deployment of body scanners at airports, but on condition that travellers have the right to refuse to walk through the controversial machines.

European lawmakers gave their conditional support in a show of raised hands a day before the European Commission decides whether to authorise states in the 27-nation European Union to use body scanners at airport security checkpoints.

The parliament has the power to overturn the decision within three months.

The use of scanners caused an uproar in the United States last year because they produce a graphic image of a person's body, giving rise to the name "naked scanner."

Euro MPs do not oppose body scanners and agree they can enhance security, but they say passengers should have the right to refuse to walk through the machines and opt for a hand search instead.

Worried about embarrassing intrusion into people's privacy, the parliament said the scanners should only produce images of "stick figures" and that any data must be immediately destroyed.

Concerned about the potential health risks, lawmakers called for a ban on the use of X-ray scanners that use ionising radiation.

The United States stepped up the deployment of body scanners at airports after a Nigerian man was accused of trying to ignite explosives concealed in his underwear during a Christmas day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009.

Washington then urged the EU to follow suit but Europeans decided to first study their impact on health and privacy.

Some EU states, including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Finland have tested body scanners.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text will be available here (click on 6 July 2011)

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