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Dubai rules out body scanners as it plans future airport security systems

Posted 6 July 2010 · Add Comment

Dubai has ruled out the use of full-body security scanners at its airports as the devices do not correspond with national customs and ethics according to the police officer heading airport security.

Brigadier Ahmed bin Thani, the Dubai Police’s director of airport security said “I do not feel that it is necessary for us to implement such a technology while we are operating different methods and have different avenues that have worked so far.” 

The Brigadier said “The use of such a device violates personal privacy and it raises a very sensitive issue for passengers, in addition to the fact that it does not complement our national ethics.”

The devices, also known as millimetre wave scanners, or backscatter X-rays depending on which technology they use, have raised privacy concerns because they allow authorities to see underneath clothing to the surface of the skin, although special software normally masks some parts of the body.

According to Abu Dhabi based newspaper, The National, the rejection by Dubai is at odds with an announcement by federal authorities at a regional aviation security conference last month that they intended to introduce body-imaging machines at airports.

Federal officials are reviewing the technology because of the radiation concerns, said Saif al Suwaidi, the director general of the General Civil Aviation Authority.
“We don’t have full information on the side effects of using this kind of equipment on frequent flyers,” he said.

The screening devices have already been deployed in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Italy, among other countries. Around 1,000 full-body scanners are due to be operational in US airports by the end of next year.

Some 3,700 people have been trained to deal with security threats and public order at the Dubai airports, according to Bin Thani.

“The majority of crimes that we deal with involve forged passports originating from East Asian countries.”

His deputy Brig Omar al Amri was reported as saying that Dubai International Airport has also been testing face-recognition technology to enhance safety. “For the technology to be introduced only a software upgrade is required,” said Bin Thani. “We are currently testing it and reviewing its potential uses.”

The airport has more than 3,200 operational security cameras in its three terminals.

Dubai’s airports are expected to process 46 million passengers this year, compared with 40 million last year, after the opening of Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali last month. Security personnel have been kept busy, dealing with 732 criminal cases thus far this year, compared to 1,382 in all of last year.

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