German Activists Protest Body Scanners by Stripping Down

By Smriti Rao | January 13, 2010 12:23 pm

The best way to make a point about privacy and “invasive” body scanners at the airport–is to strip down to your underwear and then publish that video to YouTube so the whole world can see you in your nearly naked glory. Might sound strange at first, but we are covering it in Discoblog, so I guess it worked.

Warning: This video has mild nudity and so may be NSFW.

German activists from the Pirate Party thought organizing a “fleshmob” of people to strip down to their skivvies and converge on the Berlin-Tegel airport was a great idea. The activists were protesting the use of what the Germans call the Nacktscanner, or naked scanner–a body scanner that may increasingly be used for airport security, in the wake of the botched underwear bombing on Christmas Day.

As Wired reported:

The protesters marked their bodies with a number of messages such as, “Something to hide?” and “Be a good citizen — drop your pants.” One woman has the word “diaper” scrawled on her lower back with an arrow pointing to her underwear and the word “prosthetic” printed on her leg. The word “piercing” and an arrow point to one of her breasts. Another woman dressed in a beige sweater and flesh-colored tights wears a sign reading “pixelated.” (To address privacy concerns, security officials say the scanners can be programed to produce a blurred, pixelated image of passengers to protect their modesty.)

The full-body scanners work by using high frequency radio waves to produce an image of a passenger’s naked body beneath clothes. So anything strapped to the body–explosives, drugs–would be exposed. But if you chuck something in a body cavity the scanner fails to detect that. The scanners have raised concerns about passengers’ privacy, as pointed out by the semi-naked activists, but German authorities are pressing ahead with their plans to deploy them across the country’s airports over the next two years.

Related Content:
80beats: 5 Reasons Body Scanners May Not Solve Our Terrorism Problem
80beats: Are Digital Strip Searches Coming Soon To Every Airport Near You?
80beats: TSA Threatens Bloggers Who Published Security Info, Then Backs Off

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Theresa

    Will Germans jump at any excuse to be nude?

    Seriously, although the scanner is not a panacea (as you pointed out, it misses anything in a body cavity) it seems less of an invasion than the wand and the pat-down.

  • Jason

    Will privacy be missed?

  • pheldespat

    Body scanners are an invasion of privacy and they don’t strengthen security one bit. Besides, the images taken are going to be stored, despite claims on the contrary by the TSA.

  • Lee

    I’d fly nude in a heartbeat, it’s wearing clothes for it (or much of anything else) that’s annoying. Obviously I fail to see the fanfare about the scanners. I simply couldn’t care less, and although philosophically it isn’t clear to me why we’re so willing to sell our souls to the terrorists.

  • Ed

    Well I guess that’s the same point that TSA and others are using: “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to fear” but this argument isn’t valid.. and just because you don’t have any problem with getting naked it doesn’t mean that it’s ok for other people…

    I’d also fly nude or get naked at the airport, but you still gotta respect that other people might have a problem with that.

  • Keith

    Reality check people. Your choice is be scanned,strip naked or(even though a small chance) be blown up at 20,000 feet ,perhaps ram into a skyscraper-remember 9/11 DOH! how quickly we forget. I will happily be scanned or strip or felt-up or cavity searched to prove that I am safe and you are safe. The alternative is just not acceptable. Small inconvenience for the safety of others,myself,my loved ones, your loved ones.

  • dude

    Keith, you’re crazy, giving up freedom for a little taste of safety? Why not just stay indoors and never get into a car? Your chances of dying that way are far higher than in some made up terrorist scare. No one will ever let terrorists take over a plane again with box cutters. Quit being a wimp

  • Itchy Bites

    >>Will Germans jump at any excuse to be nude?
    LOL. True.

    Here is a nice tip on how to avoid full body scan in the airport queue:

  • Keithisgay

    Keith, so let me get this straight, you would let someone search your anal cavity every time you get onto a plane. You probably work for the TSA

  • Anon

    Which harms your liberty and personal sovereignty more: Giving up a previously-assumed inviolate right not to show your exposed body to strangers or be forcibly touched against your will (read: assault, sexual) – or companies being forbidden to sell vast quantities of food for everyday consumption with a particularly high saturated fat level?

    I ask, because the former has NOT so far (and may end up NEVER having) caught a terrorist, so demonstrably has directly saved no lives. Terrorists are aware of the scanner and its shortcomings, and are well capable of exploiting them. If you think someone who is willing to blow themselves up on a plane is even remotely squeemish about plugging every oriface with enough PETN to bring down a dozen planes, then you’re not thinking straight. The latter, however, would conceivably save thousands, if not millions of lives.

    Like it or not, societies need to concentrate their monetary and political resources where they will do the MOST GOOD for the state of the society, which includes the health, safety and liberty of the population. Cheeseburgers and Coke contribute more to death statistics per year than airplane terrorists have ever killed. Think about that. Deep Vein Thrombosis has killed more people since 9-11 than the deaths in the planes, in the buildings, and of the soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan combined (fact-check it if you like, it’s true). There are bigger problems in this world than media darling terrorists. Do you know the difference between a suicidal murderer and a terrorist matyr? Press coverage and fear. Don’t let the terrorists win.

    And you know what? If I were a terrorist (which I most decidedly am NOT), do you know what I would target? The body scanner itself. It wouldn’t be too hard to add a stolen or “acquired” Cobalt-60 or Cesium-137 radiotherapy source inside the housing of the scanner, capable of exposing any and all scanned passengers to high levels of radiation. How hard do you think it would be to break into (or evacuate and stroll into) a small hospital and take one of these sources from their radiotherapy device? How high is the security at the plant that MAKES the body scanners? How high is the security of the transport from plant A to airport B? Radiation can be invisible, odorless, silent, tasteless and untouchable. No-one might know they were exposed until some time later. It could be happening right now.

    Even disregarding this horrifying possibility, how about people who have undergone high-dose radiotherapy and who have reached their lifetime dose limit? Are you seriously expecting them to choose between being exposed beyond that? They will have no choice but to be assaulted.

  • Homer S.

    No, Keith does not work for the TSA. I think he’d fail even their requirements. Keith is a good example of a good ol’ stupid american.

  • hans meiser

    Funny fact: The video is not available from Germany. Good one, YouTube. :)

  • Sharon Stone Gibson

    BRAVO!! Great Solution!

  • Karrie Cregeen

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