In the wake of the thwarted terrorist incident on Northwest’s Christmas Day Amsterdam to Detroit flight, there’s a renewed interest among many governments in putting more full body scanners to work at airport security checkpoints. The scanners take x-ray-like pictures of passengers, exposing objects that are hidden beneath clothes. The suspect in the Northwest incident was allegedly carrying explosives in his underwear and may very well have been apprehended if a scanner had been in place. So why aren’t more airports using them now? The technology has been available for some time, but both privacy and civil liberty groups have fought hard against them, claiming that the images of passengers’ bodies fall somewhere between obtrusive and obscene, and that the machines violate basic human rights and dignity.
What do TripAdvisor travelers think? We polled more than 2,200 people last week, asking if they would be comfortable with U.S. airports using full body scanners that can see through clothing. A resounding 78% said yes, scanners would enhance security. The remaining 22% felt it was too much of an invasion of privacy. Looks like the majority will feel more secure, as we’re likely to see 500 or so machines in play at U.S. airports by the end of this year, and many European countries — including the U.K., the Netherlands, France, and Germany — move closer to implementing mandatory scans.
In the meantime, some parties continue to debate the pros and cons of full body pat downs, which are a potential — and similarly thorough — alternative to scans. What do you think — which would you prefer?