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Airport Body Scanners

Body scanner screening commenced at Australia's eight international gateway airports in December 2012. The eight international gateway airports are Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney Airports.

Body scanners provide an additional layer of security, which includes walk-through metal detectors, restrictions on the carriage of liquids, aerosols and gels, explosive trace detection and police presence, amongst other measures.

See our Fact Sheet for more details:

Health

The travelling public should not be concerned about the introduction of body scanners.

Do you use a mobile phone? How about wireless internet? Body scanners to be used in Australia will only use non-ionising millimetre-wave technology. Millimetre-waves are radiofrequency energy in the gigahertz bands, similar to that emitted by mobile phones. The lower intensity of the millimetre-waves and short duration of the scan means that the person being scanned is exposed to much less energy than is the case with other everyday devices.

One body scan emits 10,000 times less radio frequency energy than an average mobile phone call, which is significantly less than the maximum permissible exposure levels for the public set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Diagram of Radio Frequency Energy

The Government will not allow body scanners that use ionising radiation, such as X-ray technology, for aviation security screening purposes.

For more information about health and safety please read the millimetre-wave body scanner health and safety information sheet [PDFPDF: 754 KB] [ReadSpeaker] and frequently asked questions.

Privacy

An example of the generic 'stick' figure produced by the body scanner

To protect the privacy of the travelling public, body scanners deployed in Australia must be equipped with privacy enhancements. The current generation body scanner is equipped with automatic threat recognition technology, which removes any opportunity to view detailed or naked images and instead highlights areas of concern on a generic ‘stick’ figure. In addition, the body scanner cannot store personal information about passengers or the screen display generated from individual scans.

The Government consulted with a wide range of stakeholders on privacy issues, including the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Further information on the consultation process can be accessed at privacy consultation.

Following this consultation a comprehensive Privacy Impact Assessment was undertaken and is available here [PDFPDF: 1168 KB] [ReadSpeaker]

Body Scanner Trial

A voluntary body scanner trial was undertaken at Sydney and Melbourne International Airports during August and September 2011. The purpose of this trial was to test operational policies and procedures in order to determine the impact the body scanners may have on the passenger screening process. The trial also provided an opportunity for privacy and other interest groups to view the body scanner in operation.

The report from the trial is available here [PDFPDF: 741 KB] [ReadSpeaker]

Frequently asked Questions

If you still have more questions about the introduction of body scanners, please see our frequently asked questions.

Special Circumstances

The Government understands that some members of the community may have concerns about how body scanners may impact on their individual circumstances. For more information please select the relevant link below.

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Last Updated: 10 April, 2014