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Airport worker warned over body scanner 'harassment'

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Body scanner misuse?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Employee made lewd remark about female colleague in body scanner
  • Critics of full body scanners say they are an abuse of privacy rights
  • Police issued harassment warning over incident at Heathrow Airport
  • Scanners introduced in aftermath of Dec. 25 attempt to blow up airliner

London, England (CNN) -- An employee at London's Heathrow Airport has been given a police warning after allegedly making a lewd remark about a female colleague as she stood in a full body scanner by mistake.

The woman reported the incident to airport bosses and to police, according to the UK's Press Association.

"Police received an allegation regarding an incident that happened at Heathrow Terminal 5 on March 10," a Metropolitan Police spokesman told PA. "A first instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old male."

A spokeswoman for BAA, which runs the airport, said that the allegations were being investigated and that "appropriate action" would be taken if the claims were substantiated.

"We treat any allegations of inappropriate behavior or misuse of security equipment very seriously and these claims are investigated thoroughly," she told PA.

Heathrow and other British airports introduced full body scanners earlier this year as part of tougher security measures introduced following an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner from Amsterdam on December 25 last year.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that scanners were necessary to combat "a new type of threat."

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But critics say the scanners breach people's privacy rights.

"This incident highlights the risks to privacy and respect for human dignity that are posed by the use of full body scanners," said Susie Uppal of the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"The Government needs to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that incidents of this kind are not repeated. There needs to be a lawful system of training and conduct that is applied consistently across all airports, rather than the current haphazard and rushed approach which is already showing its flaws."

Matthew Knowles of the aerospace trade organization ADS told PA body scanners were vital tools to protect travelers from possible terror attack and said safeguards had been put in place to protect passengers' privacy.

"The development and deployment of this technology by industry and the authorities have been carried out with safeguards in place to prevent such alleged abuses happening when in use with passengers at airports.

"For example, in actual use the person operating the scanner is in a separate location to the passengers to prevent any such situation occurring."

In a report issued Wednesday British lawmakers said that privacy concerns regarding body scanners had been "overstated."

"Air passengers already tolerate a large invasion of their privacy and we do not feel that full body scanners add greatly to this situation. Privacy concerns should not prevent the deployment of scanners," said the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee.

 
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