LONDON — The privacy fears raised by the deployment of full body scanners at airports are overblown, a committee of British lawmakers said Wednesday, adding that the technology was no more of a threat to passengers' rights than pat-downs or bag searches.
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The government promised to install body scanners across Britain's airports after a botched attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jet on Dec. 25 — allegedly by a terrorist who hid explosives in his underwear. But privacy groups bristled at the prospect of scans that can peer under clothes to reveal hidden items, likening them to a "virtual strip search."
The lawmakers said the fears were over-hyped.
"Air passengers already tolerate a large invasion of their privacy," the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee said in a report covering counterterrorism measures at Britain's airports. "We do not feel that full body scanners add greatly to this situation."
The report welcomed the introduction of the scanners and recommended that other security measures be adopted quickly, including new equipment to sniff out trace levels of explosives.
It noted that other types of scanners could be introduced in other parts of the airport, such as the approach to check-in, although it did not specifically recommend it.
The committee said more passenger profiling should be done — for example looking at unusual or suspicious patterns in ticket purchases and luggage carried — but warned that it "should not be perceived to be undertaken on crude racial or ethnic grounds."
The government said it was pleased with the report's endorsement of security scanners.
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