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UK To Use "Risk-Profiling Software" To Screen All Airline Passengers and Cargo 222

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-to-the-computer dept.
dryriver writes "The BBC reports: 'The UK branch of an American company — SAS Software — has developed a hi-tech software program it believes can help detect and prevent potentially dangerous passengers and cargo entering the UK using the technique known as 'risk profiling.' So, what exactly is risk profiling and can it really reduce the risk of international terrorism? Risk profiling is a controversial topic. It means identifying a person or group of people who are more likely to act in a certain way than the rest of the population, based on an analysis of their background and past behavior — which of course requires the collection of certain data on people's background and behavior to begin with. When it comes to airline security, some believe this makes perfect sense. Others, though, say this smacks of prejudice and would inevitably lead to unacceptable racial or religious profiling — singling out someone because, say, they happen to be Muslim, or born in Yemen. The company making the Risk-Profiling Software in question, of course, strongly denies that the software would single people out using factors like race, religion or country of origin. It says that the program works by feeding in data about passengers or cargo, including the Advanced Passenger Information (API) that airlines heading to Britain are obliged to send to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) at 'wheels up' — the exact moment the aircraft lifts off from the airport of departure. Additional information could include a combination of factors, like whether the passenger paid for their ticket in cash, or if they have ever been on a watch list or have recently spent time in a country with a known security problem. The data is then analyzed to produce a schematic read-out for immigration officials that shows the risk profile for every single passenger on an incoming flight, seat by seat, high risk to low risk.'"
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UK To Use "Risk-Profiling Software" To Screen All Airline Passengers and Cargo

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  • It Believes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davesag (140186) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:11AM (#42064845) Homepage

    Whereas I believe it's unlikely to work, probably expensive, and manifestly open to being gamed.

    Sigh.

  • by dam.capsule.org (183256) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:44AM (#42064927) Homepage
    They now just have to find somebody which would score as low risk and they won't have any trouble.
  • Re:It Believes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:15AM (#42065019) Homepage

    The biggest joke of all is the underlying assumption that terrorists are helpless so long as they can't get past airport security.

    If I were a terrorist I'd just detonate my bag full of explosives/ball bearings in the line for the scanner.

    Or just do it in any other place where there's lots of people. Doesn't really matter where, eg.. The car park for the superbowl would be a good place for a truck bomb.

    Remind me again why we're spending so much on airport security...?

  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:41AM (#42065105)

    As someone who knows a little bit about multi-criteria decision making, risk analysis, probability theory and their friends (plausibility, possibility, fuzzy logics, etc.), I submit that these kinds of software programs are all just hocus-pocus and based on bullshitting customers.

    How can I claim that without having seen the software? Simpe answer: The number of terrorist incidents is too low to establish significent correlations. The software is probably better at recognizing Pakistani cooks than at recognizing your next Breivik.

  • Re:It Believes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @07:37AM (#42065311) Homepage

    So, by making the cockpit door out of slightly thicker plywood and fitting a bolt to it - similar to the one you are familiar with from your bathroom door - we can eliminate that threat entirely, for about 20 quid a plane. Less, really, because the DIY store will give you a discount on a large order of bathroom door bolts.

  • by pointyhat (2649443) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @08:15AM (#42065465)

    In a capitalist society, a divide develops and society falls into those who control and those who are controlled. This software exists to enable and reinforce that divide by criminalising people.

    Regarding maturity, do you find it unacceptable that someone should be principled and express that verbally? Sometimes "fuck you" is the best answer.

  • Re:It Believes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @08:45AM (#42065607)

    The biggest joke of all is the underlying assumption that terrorists are helpless so long as they can't get past airport security.

    To me, the "biggest joke" is that we believe we're powerless to address this problem at its source. I don't think I'm going all 'kumbaya' when I say that if nations set out with a will to stop meddling in each other's affairs for political and financial gain, a LOT of the terrorist threats would simply disappear. We wouldn't be totally safe - there'll always be crazies with an axe to grind - but we could go back to the days when travel security was a minor inconvenience and not a major hassle / personal violation.

    As for the 'terrorist threats' since 9/11, how many have there been, apart from those made up by the FBI and other agencies in order to fatten their funding and broaden their power base? Does anyone here have access to credible stats on the real increase in terrorist activity in the developed world over the past decade?

  • Re:It Believes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @09:06AM (#42065719)

    If I were a terrorist I'd just detonate my bag full of explosives/ball bearings in the line for the scanner.

    The unspoken intention of the airport security is that it's better to have a few hundred people killed at the security checkpoint than have someone get control of an airplane and fly it into a building.

    If terrorists were as motivated, competent, and plentiful as all the security theatre seems to indicate, wouldn't they do precisely that, i.e. set bombs off at the check-in points of a half-dozen major airports? Not as much splash as flying a plane into a building, but it would still make air transport grind to a halt and cause huge economic and psychic damage.

    The terrorists won on 9/11. The proof of that is seen in the pervasiveness, (and growing acceptance), of surveillance, loss of personal privacy, curtailment of personal freedoms, and an underlying siege mentality. They really don't need to fly any more planes into any more buildings.

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @09:30AM (#42065839)

    We shouldn't fear every time some new technology is employed to fight evil. Don't just have a knee jerk reaction to this. I know people who have worked on this project and I trust them and their work.

    I know governments that have worked on much more serious projects and I don't trust them or their work.

    Fight evil? Don't make me laugh. Keep contractors in jobs and bureaucrats in bribes more like.

    Now we all know it picks on Arabs who pay cash all the bad guys have to do is legally change their name from Mohammed to Hank, apply for a bank card, and order the standard in-flight meal.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

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