Project KRETA – Körperscanner: Reflexion der Ethik auf Technik und Anwendungskontexte

Basic data

Körperscanner: Reflexion der Ethik auf Technik und Anwendungskontexte
15/02/2011 to 16/02/2016
Abstract / short description:
KRETA, a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is concerned with body scanners as a new security measure. The aim of the project is to analyze the technological development and its implementation from an ethical, social scientific and psychological point of view. KRETA focuses on the connection between security technologies and people with special physical conditions. Here, the research concentrates on broader questions of inclusion and exclusion in security technologies and thus addresses first and foremost the issue of the relationship between security and justice resp. equality. KRETA follows on from the project THEBEN, which was successfully completed in December 2010.

Scientific Objectives:

KRETA is an interdisciplinary project bringing together social sciences, ethics and psychology. Hence KRETA carries out its studies within both an empirical and theoretical framework. The empirical analyses have a key role, inasmuch as they provide the foundation for further interdisciplinary work. The project was able to buy a body scanner which enables the researchers to conduct their studies directly. The scanner is used for carrying out series of psychological studies, as well as producing images for close analyses. Further data are gathered from a set of qualitative interviews and from ethnographic observations at the airport.

The images produced by the body scanner serve as a basis for preliminary ethical assessments and for reflections on concepts of normalisation and the “security habitus“. In this context, KRETA is particularly interested in the effects body scanners can have on people with “atypical” bodies. More often than not, body scanners with privacy software identify these bodies as “abnormal” and thus potentially dangerous. Here, a body image viewed solely in terms of its potential danger and its distance to a set norm is generated. Based on that, KRETA investigates how this body image can affect the everyday life of people with special physical conditions on the one hand, social conceptions of normality on the other.

This predominantly sociological and psychological perspective is complemented by an ethical one. The focus lies on the development of a model of “justice”, where, e.g., the distribution mechanisms of “security” as interest and value are put into question. The conflict that arises between the two desired aims of having both a safe and inclusive society is a conflict that takes on specific forms as soon as security measures and technologies come into play: Which of the two aims should take precedence? Under what circumstances? And with what motivation and justification?

With producing and practicing security, a further potentially problematic aspect arises: individual moral rights, which, in view of both the disadvantaged as well as the non-disadvantaged travellers, can be appealed to by security-conscious air passengers. Where does discrimination begin? Which individual rights, could (or should not) be infringed upon? In which manner and through which procedures?
The aim of the project is to compile solutions to these conflicts, always distinguishing between problems that can be resolved on the technological level and those which must (also) be resolved in social contexts.



International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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