Passengers to be subjected to full-body scans from the Netherlands

Full body scanners are to be immediately deployed for all US-bound flights from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, the Government of the Netherlands confirmed December 30.

Passengers travelling to the US will be required to pass through the scanners, which have been previously been voluntary because of privacy concerns. Passengers unwilling to use them will be subjected to a manual body search. The scanners will be in place in around three weeks' time.

Body scanners currently available use "millimetre wave" or "backscatter xray" technology to see beneath an individual's clothes as they pass through a gate. Both types of technology effectively produce a naked picture of the individual for security staff to review, which may or may not include facial features, depending on the hardware.

The announcement by Dutch Minister Guusje Ter Horst is likely to provoke the ire of privacy campaigners, who are opposed to the devices. The American Civil Liberties Union states on its website that "these protections are the technological equivalent of making passengers parade naked through a separate room with a bag on their head."

In the United States, 40 of the machines are in use at 19 airports on an optional basis. The Transportation Security Administration has stated that it plans to purchase 150 more. Although the European Commission has stated concerns regarding use of the machines, they have been tentatively deployed at Schiphol since 2007.

The decision is a response to the suspected attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 from Schiphol in the Netherlands to Detroit in the US on December 25, in which 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab is accused of concealing explosives in his underwear.

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