02 October 2008

Virtual Strip Search

It was only a matter of time before Australian airports started to trial virtual strip search technology. The virtual strip search is a low strength x-ray machine that can see under one's clothes.

The picture (courtesy of AP) shows what the image is supposed to look like. I do not know enough about the technology but I wonder if the strength of the x-ray is upped a little bit do you get to see more of the traveller than either the scanner or the traveller bargained for?

The two extremes on this technology are:

* those that say the technology is necessary to screen for explosives and other weapons; and
* those that say this technology is nothing more than an invasion of privacy.

Nevertheless, the question is one that should be asking how much are travellers prepared to give up in order that they travel without fear of people bringing explosives and other weapons on to a flight?

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties main complaint is that the images could be highly embarrassing for travellers as it shows in reasonable detail their body shape. The Council is also worried that this will become the norm. Currently, strip searches are not required to board an aircraft so why should a virtual strip search be mandatory?

This is a trial so the emphasis is on travellers opting in to try the new technology. Travellers not into being stripped searched virtually can opt to go through regular scanning procedures. My guess is that the trial lines will always be shorter.

So, if you are in a hurry it is certainly going to be decision time. I do not carry explosives or other weapons when I am walking around the place and definitely do not carry them onto planes. I know I am an ugly bastard so I am more likely to ruin the virtual strip searchers day rather than provide them with any form of amusement or heaven forbid, arousal.

There will be strict rules in place about the storing of images and it is unlikely that the images are to be stored. There would be no valid reason to store images that did not show someone trying to smuggle something illegal on board.

Besides if these images were to find their way onto the Internet or into the public domain, then there would be claims galore for the invasion of privacy. It should be noted that the faces of the scanned individuals are to be blurred. However, it should also be noted that there is software available to "unblur" these faces (or at least this is what I am told).

The word is that the low dose of radiation associated with the scan is harmless. It is said that to get anywhere near the maximum permissible level of radiation exposure would require upwards of 10,000 scans. This would make you a very frequent traveller.

The technology is to be trialled in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. I won't be home anytime soon, so I guess I will have to wait until they start trialling it here in Indonesia.


Creepy said...

I provides "in reasonable detail their body shape?" It leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.

Rob Baiton said...


I don't know. There is still some imagining I could do with the image that I posted.

I wonder why the papers and sites that are reporting on this technology are only posting the pics of the women?

Gracia Girsang said...

Hi, i was just wondering have you ever written anything on the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties? im doing a reseach on Liberty Victoria and its role in promoting Human Rights in the state.

rima fauzi said...

they wouldn't have it in indonesia, i'm sure of it. if they do, it'll violate the pornographic law, and it just beat the purpose of having women covering themselves up.

i think this is just a violation of privacy, period.

rima fauzi said...

oh, one more thing? why did they show the image of a woman? why not a man?

Rob Baiton said...


No. NSW boy so more on that part of the world than Victoria.


I guess it would breach the porno law if and when the DPR gets it passed. Although rumor has it that there are some changes to the definition in the air.

In my response to creepy I wondered why the pics are only women.

rima fauzi said...

rob: yeah, i didn't your response to creepy. short attention span problem.. oooohh look at that beautiful butterfly!!

Rob Baiton said...


Don't forget to photograph the butterfly :D