Weekly Commentary  

The naked truth

Remember years ago when we were kids reading comic books and we'd see the ad on the back page showing some guy wearing weird 'X-Ray' glasses which would enable you to look through peoples' clothes? C'mon, be honest, did you ever think of sending away for them? The only reason I didn't do it was because I was afraid my mom would find out and I'd be in big trouble.
Well, it looks like maybe those phony ads have finally evolved into the real thing, sort of.

In case you weren't aware, there's a nifty new bit of security technology being tested for the first time in Canada at the Kelowna International Airport. It kind of looks like that glass circular column that Trekkie fans will recall was used on the Starship Enterprise to transport the likes of Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock down to some alien planet. Basically you step into the thing and in a matter of less than two seconds the glass panel spins around you and takes a picture of everything (and I mean everything) that is under your clothing.

Now before you get startled let me mention a few things. First, this is a pilot project that will run until January. Second, it is entirely voluntary. You can choose this method to go through the security line or you can use the usual method of walking through the metal scanner and then being subject to the wand and a 'pat down'. Next, as graphic and revealing as the image of yourself is, it is only seen by an operator who is located in another room entirely and who will never see your face or know your name. After verification that there is nothing dangerous attached to your body the image is deleted forever.

If the operator spots anything which looks suspicious on the image of your skin (drugs taped to the body, a thin strip of plastic explosives, small non-metallic items, etc.) she sends an electronic signal to the officer outside the room who is watching you stepping from the glass column. The signal will alert the outside security person to advise you that you will be subject to a 'pat down' on the area of your body on which something showed up on the screen. The whole process so far appears to reduce the time (and increase the security) over the way we go through the screening now. I think we all would agree that shorter times in the security lines would be a good thing.

If this pilot project shows that the gains are significant then we may well have these 'see-through' photo booths popping up at airports around the country. Keep in mind that choosing to be scanned in this manner will always be voluntary as the traditional scanners will still be in place, for those of you who prefer getting 'patted down'. The process has been checked by the Privacy Commissioner and the health professionals have verified that the amount of any type of exposure to this 'wave' technology is totally safe and in fact only a fraction of the exposure to what you get in the present process.

Oh, in case you're wondering if I have subjected myself to this new 'peek-a-boo' high tech equipment, the answer is 'yes'. After being scanned I got to go into the separate room where the operator reviews the images. I can tell you the whole process felt less invasive than what happens presently when a security person asks you to undo your belt in front of everybody and then runs his hand along your waistline to make sure it's only your boxers under there.

Anyway, I encourage you to try it if you get the chance, and let me know what you think. (Oh, by the way, if there is anyone out there who actually followed up on those ads over 40 years ago and sent away for the x-ray eye wear, I'd like to hear from you. Just so I can tell my mom that there was really nothing to worry about.)

On another note, I won't be in the constituency office this week as I have to be in Atlantic Canada until Friday doing a tour related to some crime prevention projects and a review of disaster related funding requests.

See you back in the sun next week.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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