Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Security stripping more than our rights

We all know that modern airport travel is a nightmare. Not only do we have to arrive hours before flight time, but there's check-in (no, I didn't let a complete stranger pack my bag, thanks), endless security, the plastic bags inside a pingpong ball, those little trays for your keys, mobile, belt, old bus tickets and bits of fluff. Then, there's the inevitable embarrassment of the pat down.

It all gets a bit squeamish. A friend relates a particularly horrible situation at Gatwick where you must remove your shoes and walk across a sticky bit of walkway. Sticky because thousands of feet have trodden there before. Verrucas, bunions, athlete's foot ...

Yet we do it because it's for our own good.

But now, they're taking it too far. With great fanfare Manchester airport has revealed the first ever 'naked' x-ray machine in the UK. 'Naked' in the sense that the machine sees under your clothes. Ok, you may look a bit on the grey side and not attractively lit but, yes, you're in the buff.

After just a few days, the airport has run foul of anti-child porn laws and decided not to 'x-ray' anyone under 18.

Fair enough. But it's just wrong. For anybody.

We may be (a bit) safer but at what cost? Nakedness is still taboo. It is the state when - by definition - we are at our most vulnerable, self-conscious and, er, naked. Quite simply, we don't like it. Especially if under the gaze of a minor public servant and the person behind you.

It may not be logical. But human beings are not just creatures of logic. We're creatures of feeling, a jumble of neuroses and tics. Why we should be put through such an ordeal just to make an airport run a bit faster is beyond me.

Let's just call it human dignity.

Besides, who really believes that the images (which defenders claim will be deleted after a few seconds) are really that safe? How long before pics of millions of law-abiding citizens in the nuddy are kept 'for monitoring purposes'?

There are some things that it's simply better to draw a veil over.

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