The European Commission set rules Monday for the use of body scanners at airports, allowing travellers to choose a different screening method and barring authorities from storing someone's image.
Some European Union states, including Britain, France and Germany, have tested body scanners after a Nigerian man tried to set off explosives concealed in his underwear on a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009.
The rules adopted by the EU's executive arm do not require governments to install the controversial scanners at their airports, but it lays out the conditions for using them.
"Security scanners are not a panacea but they do offer a real possibility to reinforce passenger security," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
"Security scanners are a valuable alternative to existing screening methods and are very efficient in detecting both metallic and non-metallic objects," he said.
The new rules, he added, "ensure that where this new technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights."
Germany decided in August against installing body scanners across the country's airports after a pilot scheme in the northern city of Hamburg was blighted by false alarms.
Finland, Italy and the Netherlands have also tested the scanners.
Their introduction 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."
Europeans decided to first study their impact on health and privacy.
The European Parliament endorsed the use of scanners in July but under the conditions that were presented by the commission.
The rules prevent authorities from storing, copying or printing a person's image. The security agent analysing the image must sit in a separate location and the image cannot be seen by others.
Passengers must be given the right to refuse to walk through the scanners and opt for an alternative form of screening, such as a pat-down.
by Salil Panchal
(c) 2011 AFP
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