Scanners capable of performing virtual strip search to be installed in airports

OTTAWA — The government will install dozens of scanners that can peer through the clothes of travellers in airports across Canada.

OTTAWA — The government will install dozens of scanners that can peer through the clothes of travellers in airports across Canada.

It will also set up an airport watch system to look for suspicious passengers and tab them for more screening.

“We’ve got to stay ahead of the terrorist elements,” Transport Minister John Baird said in announcing plans to buy 44 of the $250,000 machines.

The announcement was part of an international response to a Christmas Day attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a jetliner over Michigan by igniting explosives sewn into his underwear.

The United States has already demanded tighter screening of passengers from 14 countries. Canada has banned carry-on bags for U.S.-bound air passengers.

Britain also wants to deploy the scanners at its airports, but the government has run into opposition over privacy concerns. Canada’s privacy commissioner doesn’t share those worries.

Baird and Rob Merrifield, junior transport minister, said the scanners will only be used for passengers singled out for secondary screening. And people who don’t want to go through the machines can opt to be frisked.

The scanners will first be installed in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax.

The system, tested at the Kelowna airport, enables a screening officer to see whether someone is carrying explosives or other dangerous items.

Last week officials said there were no plans to speed up consideration of the long-discussed scanners in light of the near-disaster in Michigan.

But the government, under pressure to respond to the dramatic U.S. incident, has decided to make the multimillion-dollar purchase.

The proposal has stirred controversy because the scanner produces a three-dimensional outline of a person’s naked body — prompting some to denounce it as a virtual strip search.

The system received the blessing of the federal privacy czar in October.

Under the plan approved by the privacy chief, the officer would view the image in a separate room and never see the actual traveller.

Merrifield said the images will automatically be erased after the scan. No copies will be made or kept.

Chantal Bernier, the assistant federal privacy commissioner, said late last year that the holographic image generated by the scanner makes it difficult to identify the traveller’s face.

“In our view, these privacy safeguards meet the test for the proper reconciliation of public safety and privacy,” Bernier said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Most Read