Britain introduced body scanners at Heathrow airport Monday, said an MSNBC report. The scanners, which see through clothes to produce an image of the body, have caused unease among human rights campaigners who fear an invasion of passengers' privacy as well as the disproportionate scrutiny of Muslim travelers by authorities, the report said.
"Given the current security threat level, the government believes it essential to start introducing scanners immediately," said Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis.
In a statement, Adonis said airports at Heathrow and Manchester, northern England, were the first required to use the scanners and others would follow. Scanners will be introduced at Birmingham airport (in central England) this month.
"In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning. If a passenger is selected for scanning, and declines, they will not be permitted to fly," he said.
An interim code of practice for security staff stipulated that passengers should not be selected for scanning on the basis of gender, age, race or ethnic origin, Adonis said. He added that the government would launch a public consultation on the rules that should be applied in the use of scanners, with a view to producing a final code of practice.