Harper Government announces new software to enhance passenger privacy at airports

OTTAWA, April 16, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport), announced today that the Harper Government is deploying software on Canada's full body scanners (FBS) that will enhance passenger privacy at airports, while continuing to ensure the safety and security of Canadian air travellers.

The Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) software for full body scanners is being updated at major Canadian airports. This new software produces computer generated "stick figures" rather than an outline of the passenger's body, enhancing privacy for air travellers. The new full body scanner software is just as secure as the software it replaces.

"Our Government is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all passengers travelling through Canadian airports," said Minister Fletcher. "This new software will ensure the continued safety and security of Canadians passengers, while respecting their privacy. This is great news for Canadian air travellers."

To continue to ensure that every passenger's privacy is fully respected, the scanner does not collect personal information from the passenger it screens nor is the image correlated in any way with the name of the passenger or any other identifying information.

The ATR technology is in line with international standards for security screening. Other countries including the United States and the Netherlands are also using this technology.

Full body scanners at Canadian airports do not pose a risk to human health and safety. Health Canada has assessed the technical information on these devices and concluded that the radiofrequency energy emitted by the device is well within Canada's guidelines for safe human exposure.

For additional information on body scanner technology, please see the attached backgrounder.


Backgrounder


Full body scanners at major Canadian airports

Full body screening technology has been in operation at major Canadian airports for three years. Currently, 52 full-body scanners are in use in Canadian airports. Passengers selected for a secondary search can choose between the full body scanner or a physical search.

Process

The automatic target recognition software for full body scanners produces a computer generated "stick figure" that makes it possible to detect anomalies concealed under clothing. Passengers who choose a full body scan enter the scanner, stand with their feet apart and extend their arms over their head. The scan takes about five seconds. When the process is complete, passengers exit on the opposite side of the scanner.

Technology

The millimetre-wave technology works by projecting low-level radio frequency (RF) energy over and around the passenger's body. The RF wave is reflected back from the body and signals are recovered using highly sensitive detectors. The stick figure image is displayed on a screen and will identify areas of the body where objects may be concealed under clothing.

The technology detects "anomalies" on a passenger, including metals and non-metals of all types, sizes and shapes; ceramic-type threats such as knives and sharp instruments; liquids of all types; and explosives of all types.

Health and Safety

The millimetre-wave scanners do not pose a risk to human health and safety in either single or repeated exposures. Health Canada has reviewed the technical information on these devices and concluded that the radio frequency energy they emit is well within Canada's guidelines for safe human exposure. As a point of reference, the manufacturer indicates that the energy put out by the scanners is 1/10000th of the energy from a cell phone.

Privacy

With new ATR software, the full body scanner continues to detect anomalies and concealed objects on passengers. To continue to ensure that every passenger's privacy is fully respected, the scanner does not collect personal information from the passengers it screens. The Government of Canada worked with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure that privacy concerns were appropriately addressed.

April 2013 

SOURCE Transport Canada

Image with caption: "New Automatic Target Recognition software image. (CNW Group/Transport Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130416_C5711_PHOTO_EN_25566.jpg



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