By Hilary Beaumont, Copy Editor
How do you feel about 3-D “naked” body scanners?
Would you feel violated if you were picked for ‘secondary screening’? Would you feel better if given the option of a full-body pat-down instead?
Chantal Bernier hasn’t asked you these questions. The assistant federal privacy commissioner did, however, ask them of the national air security agency. A week ago, she was satisfied by their answers. This brief inquiry opened the way for 44 3-D body scanners to be installed at major airports across Canada.
Bernier said these scanners, which produce an outline of a person’s unclothed body, make it difficult to see the traveller’s face. The scanners will only be used to examine travellers picked for ‘secondary screening’. And these specially selected travellers will be given a choice: full-body pat-down or full-body scan. Bernier said this option would lessen the “sense of invasion.”
Are you satisfied?
Has Bernier asked a person who has been groped, harassed or sexually assaulted whether a choice between full-body 3-D nudity and a full-body pat-down would lessen the “sense of invasion”? She certainly hasn’t asked at-risk individuals how they feel. This leaves certain groups vulnerable because the masses can cope.
We already know certain groups are targeted more often for additional airport screening. It may not be policy, but it happens. So let’s consider an individual who belongs to one of these groups. Let’s single out a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Let’s flag her for additional screening, and give her the choice: scanner or pat-down? It’s not much of a choice. This goes beyond privacy rights and becomes a potential violation of religious freedoms.
Has Bernier asked celebrities or other notable figures how their privacy might differ from the average Canadian’s? Within that realm, Pamela Anderson might have a different take on body scanners than Margaret Atwood.
There are individuals who may value their privacy to a higher degree than others. Hermaphrodites, or people undergoing gender transition. People with Chrone’s Disease who carry urine and fecal collection bags on their person. People who have been sexually assaulted. Celebrities. People whose privacy is pivotal in their religious practice. Or that chance guy with the evolutionary remnants of a tail. How does he feel?
Would you allow a stranger to see you naked if it would guarantee your security, and the security of other weary travellers queued before and behind you? Though it is arguable how secure you might feel walking through a machine that virtually strips your clothes off: do you feel safe?
Unfortunately, these special scanners do not guarantee travellers’ safety from terrorist attacks. They do, however, provide a façade of security. Though no security measure – not shutting down air travel, not closing borders – can prevent another terrorist attack from happening, Bernier thinks this measure will help. The next, more invasive security measure, after the 3-D scanner, will also help. Our government will continue to allow the violation of our privacy rights in the name of false security.
How is it possible to “successfully answer” these questions in only three weeks? They are deeply controversial, and each Canadian harbors a different opinion. It is obvious the national security agency does not prioritize privacy over national security. This group is also unlikely to undermine their own premise: that security is possible. Bernier should have asked someone else.
Is your security guaranteed? No. And no one pretends it is.
Is your privacy guaranteed? No. But it’s meant to be protected by law as a fundamental right.
A year from now, it will be more difficult to object to a “naked” body scan. These scanners will become routine. Until the next threat to Canadians’ ‘security’. Until the next increased ‘security’ measure.
Do you care?