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Homeland Security Department Testing "Pre-Crime" Detector 580

Posted by timothy
from the when-dowsing-meets-voight-kampff dept.
holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports that the Department of Homeland Security recently tested something called Future Attribute Screening Technologies (FAST) — a battery of sensors that determine whether someone is a security threat from a distance. Sensors look at facial expressions, body heat and can measure pulse and breathing rate from a distance. In trials using 140 volunteers those told to act suspicious were detected with 'about 78% accuracy on mal-intent detection, and 80% on deception,' says a DHS spokesman."
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Homeland Security Department Testing "Pre-Crime" Detector

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:04PM (#25121847)
    Hi, I'm a terrorist, and I've been made into a stereotype.
  • by AioKits (1235070) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:05PM (#25121867)
    In other news today, Homeland Security has detained the entire Chili Cook-off Carnival event after their new FAST software registered positive hits on EVERYTHING there, including some domesticated animals and a squirrel with three legs.
  • by Swampcritter (1165207) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:05PM (#25121893)
    I think someone has been watching the Minority Report just a bit too closely. I can just see it now... the 'Pre-Crime' Division of the DHS.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:06PM (#25121911)
    I was just about to finish up my patent application for a device that could accurately detect a human pretending to be a monkey 80% of the time when a human test subject is asked in advance to pretend to be a monkey.

    Why do I even bother?
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:08PM (#25121939) Homepage Journal
    Can the sensors even handle that much mal-intent and deception?
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:09PM (#25121971) Homepage

    All you need to do now is post signs reminding any potential evil-doers to "act suspicious" and the system will work perfectly.

  • by JamesP (688957) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:15PM (#25122091)

    If it helps nailing Tom Cruise

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:17PM (#25122155)

    It can't be sued for being racist...

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:18PM (#25122173) Homepage Journal
    ...and people who look like this [photobucket.com], too.
  • by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:20PM (#25122209) Homepage

    In other words, 22% of the time it is wrong. Saying it's right 78% of the time is pure and simple market speak.

    The interesting thing about this is if people started to intrinsically act suspicious, the numbers become fudged and mostly meaningless. One way this could be accomplished is by standing around handing out complimentary eye patches, telling people it is act like a pirate day.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:25PM (#25122311) Journal

    It can randomly spurt out false positives, subjecting people to random stops and questioning. It can still miss the real terrorists who are doing their damnedest to look normal and unthreatening.

    Sheesh! I've never seen a bunch of geeks so opposed to developing an immature technology before! Perhaps a toning down of the pessimism would be in order, and perhaps we may see some improvements in our understanding of human behaviour, and the programs built to understand it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:29PM (#25122407)

    When shown a picture of Dick Cheney, the detector started spinning in circles, waving its cables haplessly while emitting blasts of "WARNING! WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!!!" and reduced itself to a molten clump of plastic and fused metal.

  • Re:Err (Score:3, Funny)

    by gsslay (807818) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:31PM (#25122449)

    Does this sound idiotic to anyone else?

    Yes indeed it does.

    Testing on my new device starts tomorrow. It has a remarkable 98% accuracy in identifying people told to dress completely in purple and sing "I Love You, You Love Me". Even at a distance. As long as the terrorists play along (and who wouldn't?) we'll win this war on terror any time soon. And even if they don't, think of all the Barney impersonators we'll get off the streets. It's an everybody-wins scenario.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:37PM (#25122569)

    All we've got is a device which can spot normal people trying to be visibly "suspicious".

    Doc Brown: Get yourself some fifties clothes.
    Marty McFly: Check, Doc.
    Doc Brown: Something inconspicuous!

  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:44PM (#25122713) Journal
    Baclava is a pastry. I'd be suspicios if somone were wearing it. I would suspect that they are a really messy eater.
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:51PM (#25122827)

    Wouldn't "suspicious" also be highly subjective? Many times that's more reflective on the prejudices of the observer. So let's take a programmer who's been up all night trying to solve a problem. He's disheveled, unshaven, and probably unkempt. He's deep in thought and in his own world. He starts talking to himself about the problem. Is he suspicious?

    Is he sitting on a park bench? Snot running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes?

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @12:54PM (#25122889)

    What about people wearing Baclava or some other sort of head covering?

    Well let's be completely honest here, anybody wearing a delicious Greek pastry [wikipedia.org] on their head while trying to fly under the radar has already blown it in a big way.

    As far as other head coverings [hatsofmeat.com] go, I still think you want to stick with the ones that aren't food-related ... you know, the idea is to blend in.

  • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @01:01PM (#25123027)

    because they're usually bug-eyed, sweating, twitching, and frequently high

    Based on that alone they would be catching a lot of nerds out on the first date too.

  • by Bandman (86149) <bandman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @01:11PM (#25123217) Homepage

    Fair warning, you should go trademark the phrase "magical terrorist detector" before I do.

  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgateNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @01:22PM (#25123417) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, sarcastic bitching is not the solution.

    No, but it does make it a little easier to handle as the problem gets worse.

  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgateNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @01:28PM (#25123569) Homepage Journal

    Great. So now every time I return from a business trip to Thailand where I had relations with young men of questionable age, and I call my wife from the customs line the machine will catch my guilty face and my increased heart rate from trying to pass a lie off to her. And I'll be stuck in the airport for a good six hours under arrest.

    Welp, those "Business Trips" to Thailand are over.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @01:35PM (#25123663) Journal

    I'll give that a shot...

    Your post advocates a

    ( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) security-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting terrorism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    ( ) Terrorists can easily play the system to go unnoticed
    ( ) Too many legitimate travellers would be affected
    ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
    ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
    ( ) It will terrorism for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
    ( ) Travellers will not put up with it
    ( ) Airlines will not put up with it
    ( ) The FBI will not put up with it
    ( ) Requires too much cooperation from terrorists
    ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
    ( ) Many airlines cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential customers
    ( ) Terrorists don't care about collateral damage
    ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
    ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for travel
    ( ) Airlines in foreign countries
    ( ) Ease of searching body cavities
    ( ) Asshats
    ( ) Jurisdictional problems
    ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
    ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
    ( ) Huge existing investment in hardware
    ( ) Susceptibility of means other than air travel to attack
    ( ) Willingness of travellers to comply with terrorist demands when faced with hostage situations
    ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
    ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all approaches
    ( ) Extreme profitability of terrorism
    ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
    ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
    ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with terrorists
    ( ) Dishonesty on the part of terrorists themselves
    ( ) Operating costs that are unaffected by airplane loading
    ( ) Osama bin Laden

    and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

    ( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
    ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
    ( ) Toothpaste should not be the subject of legislation
    ( ) Blacklists suck
    ( ) Whitelists suck
    ( ) We should be able to talk about bombs without being detained
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
    ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
    ( ) Your first bag should be free
    ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your henchmen?
    ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
    ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
    ( ) Temporary/one-time visas are cumbersome
    ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
    ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

    Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

    ( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
    ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
    ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @02:13PM (#25124317)

    Many in New England are permanently in a state of anger.

    Seriously? Have you ever been to New England, or do you just read too much Steven King?

  • by sveard (1076275) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @02:41PM (#25124837) Homepage

    Uhm, he could have been serving coffee for senior officers his entire tour of duty, what do you know...

    Or does assisting "murderers" make one a murderer as well? By that definition I think all of us are murderers.

  • Re:Err (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @03:08PM (#25125283)

    Especially since their suggestion for acting suspicious was to wear a top hat, fake moustache, and black cape.

  • by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @03:33PM (#25125715)

    Wth kinda of teenagers STEAL a dead elk from a bunch of guys with guns no less. I mean an elk weighs what 800lbs? These are some well prepared kids if they can run off with fresh kills like that, were they waiting in the woods in camo or something?
     
    (aside from that i totally agree)

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:08PM (#25126369) Journal

    Wth kinda of teenagers STEAL a dead elk from a bunch of guys with guns no less. I mean an elk weighs what 800lbs?

    Teenaged GRIZZLY BEARS.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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