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Dogs Trained to Sniff Out Piracy 147

Posted by Zonk
from the anti-peg-leg-pooches dept.
RockDoctor writes "Northern Ireland has for decades been using sniffer dogs to detect bombs and bomb-making materials. According to the BBC, a dog trainer in the Province has trained two dogs to sniff out some of the chemicals used in the manufacture of optical discs. While this has an obvious risk of false positives (polycarbonate plastics and their associated plasticizer additives are used in many other industries, for example), it does seem to be effective at locating discs which are not declared in customs manifests, and doing so much faster than human inspection of the cargo can do."
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Dogs Trained to Sniff Out Piracy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 18, 2007 @05:01PM (#18396753)
    ship burnt disks rather than making them in the destination country?
    not transfer files over the net rather than by airplane?

    Anyway...
    I guess these dogs will be used at the docks rather than the airports, to make sure cargo contains what the manifest claims.
    I'm pretty amazed that dogs can smell these solvents in such tiny amounts, and also that they can distinguish a very specific solvent among all the millions of others that will be all around the docks!
    They must use more intelligence than we think, perhaps taking into account how the concentration varies as they move around the suspect cargo. I bet it's not just that they can identify it in the air.
  • Priorities? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @05:09PM (#18396803) Journal
    More money and effort is going toward finding copied disks than in finding Bin Laden? I thought sniff-dogs were in short supply after 9/11? What gives? Big corps have way too much power of late.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @05:18PM (#18396835) Homepage
    As in, "aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

    When are people going to figure out that a "false positive" is not a nuisance, it's a death blow to any proposed technology--unless the risk of false positives is orders of magnitude lower than the actual frequency of the rare event being detected?

    Doesn't anyone ever read Æsop's fable about the boy who cried wolf?

    Polycarbonate plastic is just the generic name for Lexan® [geplastics.com], and if you follow that link you'll notice that GE mentions many uses besides DVD's: automotive lenses, "blow molding," eyewear, water bottles, structural foam, etc. The example they show in the picture is a cell phone. I believe the original iMacs (the CRT-based ones) had Lexan housings. The company I work for uses Lexan strips to protect a surface where thin metal plates slide over and would otherwise scrap a painted shelf. The stuff is used everywhere.

    After customs inspectors have wasted two or three days opening crates of various products with tough molded Lexan housings, they'll forget the whole silly business.
  • Re:Obligatory post (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @05:44PM (#18396981)
    YRO is overused as a class, but there is something to rights arguements about trained dogs, etc. that whole pesky "Unreasonable Search and Seizure" clause in the U. S. Constitution implies that some searches are more reasonable than others. Dogs provide an extension of search capabilities. So do X-Ray scans, cavity searches, DNA tests, retasking military grade spy sats to look for pot plantations, or compulsory urine testing. Dogs at customs are generally considered a reasonable search tool for the kinds of things customs has to detect.
                BUT, customs is generally charged with detecting some very odd things, such as livestock or pets that are not normally illegal to own, but are illegal to import, and with detecting drugs. Checking for bootleg CDs has certain implications that can't be avoided in this context. First, the society is assuming that catching this particular form of copyright violation is roughly on a par with catching heroin smuggling. That's pretty damned strongly implied if we put similar amounts of money into training dogs for both (and if anything, it's cheaper to train a dog to detect several related opiates and other drugs than it is one plasticiser*). Second, discovering CDs proves nothing, unless the humans associated with the dogs can make a proper determination that the CDs aren't legal ones. That implies we (as a society) are devoting resources to training the human customs agents in telling bootleg CDs from legitimate ones, AT A TIME WHEN WE HAVE SERIOUS DOUBTS ABOUT THEIR TRAINING IN DETECTING INCOMING TERRORISTS WITH WMDS!

    * I've actually helped local law enforcement train drug and explosive sniffing dogs. It's difficult fun to try and outwit a well trained sniffer dog, and I have no doubts at all they can be trained to accurately find polycarbonate plasticizers, but I really, seriously doubt it's as easy as training them for much more aromatic explosive nitrate compounds, and that is weeks or months of work. Typical training involves taking the dogs to an unfamiliar location, which means setting aside a national guard armory, old courthouse or other state owned building, often for several days, and having about 20 people previously unknown to the dogs available to plant the 'evidence'. You can't use just one or two people over and over or the dog starts using their scent markers to shortcut training. Instead you have to have several people take turns, hand off packages to each other, and otherwise mix things up so the dog trains properly on the chemical desired. That can be 20 people on a payroll all day even if they are going to actually do only 15 minutes work each, and this is far from cheap.
  • by zmollusc (763634) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @05:57PM (#18397057)
    Wrong. We are talking about government. If this turns out to be a huge waste of resources, more taxes will be levied in order to expand the operation into a gigantic waste of resources.
  • by gradster79 (878963) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @06:09PM (#18397111)
    I remember a year or so ago FedEx allowed the MPAA to use these dogs on some of the packages they were shipping. Ever since then I started using UPS. I don't buy or send pirated disks, but if FedEx is going to sell out to those folks I figure I'll just go brown.
  • by freedom_india (780002) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:34PM (#18397839) Homepage Journal
    ....and the Govt, keeps worrying about raising taxes to built a public transport system, etc.
    We should have a way to selectively pay taxes to support initiatives we like, and MPAA initiatives like these should come out of Warner, and not me.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:26PM (#18398111) Journal

    that whole pesky "Unreasonable Search and Seizure" clause in the U. S. Constitution implies that some searches are more reasonable than others.
    Yes, Customs needs to have reasonable suspicion to search you, but not to search your stuff.

    Customs has the right to inspect everything that comes through the borders, with limits (reasonable suspicion) only on people.

    There is no such thing as "Unreasonable Search and Seizure" when it comes to cargo, packages, mail, or 'things that are not people'.
  • by hazem (472289) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:46AM (#18399199) Journal
    The dogs take in the same amount of particles no matter what they trained to detect. Imagine them like a vacuum cleaner that picks up every scent that every bag gives off.

    That only makes sense if the atmosphere has a uniform distribution of every kind of particle. Clearly this is not true. If the distribution is uniform then the dogs would have no differential to determine direction with.

    Drug dogs are trained to seek out areas with higher concentrations of drugs. How else do you think they are able to determine direction and location?

    Try walking around your neighborhood around dinner time. You eventually start to smell a good steak being grilled (or maybe a stir-fry, bread, or whatever). Walk around, turning your head from side to side and just using your nose, you'll be able to figure out what house that smell is coming from. You'll only be able to do this because there is not a uniform distribution of steak-grilling-smell in your neighborhood.

    Now imagine your house has a couple dead fish in it. Your entire house reeks of the smell. Because your house is closed and the fish have been there a while, you might have a fairly uniform distribution. Likewise, you would have a difficult time finding the dead fish with just your sense of smell. Nearly every place in your house smells equally bad.

    Is there a chance that dogs could get addicted or cancer from their activities? Maybe. As they zero in on their targets (in real life and in training), they're going to be inhaling air with higher concentrations of the particles than the atmosphere in general. So they're getting more particles than they normally would.

    The question is - do such substances emit ENOUGH particles to pose a health risk? Or do the substances need to be consumed?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:39AM (#18399355)
    Anyone who has entered the UK (and any other country as far as I'm aware) any time recently will realise that you are not required to declare optical media so the dogs sniffing out undeclared media are unlikely to be sniffing around your luggage any time soon...

    This is aimed at commercial piracy with large shipments of pressed pirate discs from China and similar places...

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