A trial of new scanning technology, which will subject travellers to a “virtual strip search”, will start at Australian airports this month.

In a move that has concerned civil libertarians, the new scanners will be set up alongside traditional airport security devices and travellers will be invited to take part.

The new devices use X-ray technology to look through a person’s clothing and reveal whether they are carrying a weapon, but it also shows a clear outline of their body.

“It provides detailed images of a person’s body, in particular body shape, which many people might find highly embarrassing,” says Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

“It’s not normal for security to require strip searches of people getting on aeroplanes, and why should this virtual strip search become the norm?”

Office of Transport Security executive director Paul Retter has also told Fairfax that measures were in place to ensure the privacy and dignity of the scanned person

“Faces are blurred and images are not saved and cannot be transferred,” Retter said.

“During the trial, travellers will be able to choose the existing hand-luggage scanners and walk-though metal detectors, or they could chose the technology trial lane and provide feedback.”

The trial will be undertaken at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide airports from this month to the end of next month.