The virtual strip search is not happening. Air travellers need not fear the ‘bare-all’ X-ray body scanner at the Indira Gandhi International Airport anymore.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is in charge of airport security, has decided not to use the backscatter X-ray machine — that produces almost-naked images of passengers to reveal hidden weapons or explosives — due to ethical and technical reasons.
“Only one machine was brought to IGI Airport four months ago for trial. We found the images were too revealing. It has since been gathering dust at the security hold area of the domestic terminal,” said a senior CISF official.
“Using the machine would have become very sensitive here, considering the hue and cry it has raised in the UK and the US,” he said. “The machine was not foolproof either.”
A few international airports like London’s Heathrow and Phoenix Sky Harbor International in the US used the backscatter machine in the aftermath of 9/11, drawing criticism and concern from civil-liberty groups over privacy abuse.
In an effort to ensure that technology did not lead to abuse, female security personnel were also trained to man the machine while searching women at IGI Airport. However, neither the machine nor the personnel were ever used.