UA-1074328-1

Airport Body Scanners Could Violate Child Pornography Laws

26 March 2010

With airports across the world plagued by terrorists attempting to smuggle dangerous weapons and explosives on board flights, Britain is set to become one of the first countries to introduce full body scanning technology.

The scanners, worth around 80,000 GBP are able to look ‘through’ clothing, revealing a naked image of the subject, where genitalia and even breast implants can be seen. While it is hoped this technology will offer greater safety in our skies, a concern has arisen that the technology may violate laws prohibiting the creation and possession of indecent images of children.

Under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is illegal to possess, distribute, show and make indecent images of children. As a child in this context is described as anyone under the age of 18, this could mean that only those over 18 years old could be scanned.

Alisdair Gillespie, of De Montfort University, an expert in the field of law relating to indecent images, said to Sky News:

“Usually an indecent image would be one where there was something overtly sexual about it. But if this machine can produce an image of a child’s genitals then there is a theoretical possibility that it might be classed as indecent.”

Manchester Airport, currently in line to become the first British airport to introduce the technology, is believed to be liaising with child protection officials before making a decision regarding this issue. However, critics fear that if these images are allowed to be taken, they could fall into the wrong hands, being passed on to sex offenders via the internet and other means. Indeed, with the prevalence of high speed broadband connections, indecent images can spread rapidly.

When police would be required to investigate such an offence, the assistance of Computer Forensic Experts would be vital. Computer Forensics, also known as Digital Forensics, involves the analysis of computers and other electronic devices in order to produce legal evidence of a crime or unauthorised action.

Current guidelines require that images taken using the new scanner technology are deleted immediately after viewing, but if it was suspected that the images were not being removed promptly, Computer Forensic Analysts could look to establish how long the image was retained for. Similarly, if it was suspected that the images had been transferred to an external storage media, analysts could examine the registry of the computer to see if such a transfer had occurred.

While the emphasis in the case of ‘virtual strip search’ technology would of course be on strong security to prevent the spread of indecent images, if plans to scan over 18s go ahead, it seems that Computer Forensic Analysis will play a vital part in the fight to prevent such images spreading across the public domain.

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