There are a lot of EU laws about travelling through airports. We've all seen the signs about asking for your rights. So is there any EU law about body scanners? Is there an EU law that says I am always allowed to refuse to use them?

I'm not talking about traditional X Ray machines metal detectors , I have no problem with them, but the newer sub-millimetre "naked" machines.

  • 21
    You'd be strongly advised to refuse if anyone at an airport wants you to go through an X-ray machine. Terrahertz is at least harmless.
    – CMaster
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 15:36
  • 9
    I've a had a few hand searches in Europe which were really quite invasive. So you basically have the choice between having your privates looked at or manually handled and squeezed. Pick your poison.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 17:41
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    Remember its "opting out" not "refusing" Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:52
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    @CMaster At least for a while, they really did use x-ray backscatter machines for the body scanners at some airports. I think most or all of them have been replaced by millimeter wave scanners now, though.
    – reirab
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:25
  • 4
    Pre-Snowden I was silent as I thought I am in tin foil territory but no longer: how hard would it to exfiltrate data from these scanners without the agents on spot knowing? And to put a name on the scans, how hard would it be to run a facial recognition against the database of people who, per the manifests, are expected to be in that machine at that time? Bonus question: what do you know actually what those scans can show, beyond what the agents see there?
    – user4188
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 0:43

1 Answer 1


The EU policy is crystal clear:

passengers must be given the possibility of opting out from a security scanner. In this case the passenger shall be screened by an alternative screening method including at least a hand search;

The UK government, as usual in its bizarre anti freedom ways, tried to resist opt outs going so far in 2010, per this Guardian article

Earlier this month two women, one a Muslim, became the first people to be barred from boarding a flight at Manchester airport because they refused to go through a full-body scanner.

but as of November 22, 2013 you can opt out at every UK airport as well. However, if you do, they will make sure to make your life miserable: in 2017 August, I was picked for the full body scanner at Heathrow T2 and after opting out they have removed and inspected every single piece from my carry on. This was a lot of fun as I was travelling for six months and there were a lot of pieces. I have no idea what happens if you are late from your flight because of this charade, I caught my flight, even if barely. It took about 30-35 minutes.

  • 17
    The UK "opt out" is a bit of a palaver. The Home Office resented its introduction into domestic law and has done all it can to make it unenjoyable. Heathrow in particular is instructed to make your journey very miserable if you insist on opting out---expect it to take about an hour. At one point you had to fill in a form. All your bags will be hand searched as will anyone travelling with you.
    – Calchas
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 2:26
  • 1
    I have rolled this back in light of travel.stackexchange.com/questions/77241/… Also note one CCTV for every ten person in Britain.
    – user4188
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 9:21
  • I don't understand the relationship of the link and this answer.
    – Calchas
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 10:05
  • No, the relationship is between the rollback and that thing.
    – user4188
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 10:45
  • 2
    @Calchas confirmed, just happened to me yesterday.
    – user4188
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 9:45

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