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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 @06:11AM (#42064845) Homepage

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

    Sigh.

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

      by ledow (319597) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:46AM (#42064937) Homepage

      All risk-profiling does is make you *think* you're more likely to catch certain people. In fact, what it does is provide a list of constraints that those people will actively avoid triggering and, thus, stand much less chance of being caught. Do you really think any terrorist is thinking of using a liquid bomb since the liquid-size limitation rules came in force? No, they'd do something else just to avoid detection.

      The *only* way, if you don't want to check everyone out manually each time, is to do entirely random security checks. Stick your guys on the frontline to catch anything "funny" but flag 1 in 10 people who go through completely at random and make it a condition of their employment that your security guys must check those people, young or old, rich or poor, first class or economy, in a wheelchair or with a false leg or completely healthy, no excuses.

      All this does is catch the stupid terrorists who would be caught anyway, while giving the sensible ones a perfect opportunity to knowingly and predictably reduce their risk by huge amounts.

      What risk category are you going to enter? Travelled to dodgy countries recently? A stayover for a time in a country will soon time that out so it's not relevant. Or just use a local rather than a foreigner. Age range? That's just getting into the "children / old people can't be terrorists" mentality, which is a stupid place to go. Race? Religion? Credit card history? All of the people you would catch from things like that should be caught ANYWAY by just decent security in the first place. All the rest, that you miss, will deliberately be missed by profiled screening.

      At least with random screening you stand a chance of catching someone that's avoiding your profiling, and a chance of spotting new trends ("Here, John, isn't that the third guy we've stopped who's had a little vial in his bag?"), and a chance of actually scaring off terrorists / smugglers / etc. from trying in the first place.

      But all this is moot while you only enforce a decade-old security policy based on a single (unsuccessful) incident, rather than thinking about what's actually likely to be dangerous and what's not.

      I can't take 100ml of water in a single bottle (but I can take more of "baby milk", so long as I drink from it first - and that check is as rigorous as security watching me put it to my lips and then looking away!), but I can take several bottles that won't be inspected.

      I can also take large poles in a rucksack, and various amount of improvised weapons, and hell I know someone who went through Heathrow three times while carrying CS spray (which is illegal to possess in the UK, let alone on the plane). It wouldn't be hard to fashion an instrument from perfectly ordinary hand luggage capable of levering open the cabin door and threatening the pilot (and UK cockpits are not armed and don't have armed officers onboard) if that was your intention.

      If you want security, automated profiling is like shouting "friend or foe?!". Nobody with any brains is ever going to shout foe (or be flagged by your profiling) if they have hostile intent.

      Want to improve security? Scrap the enormous queues at every major UK airport - by scrapping all the stupid hand luggage restrictions (obviously keep things like "explosives" on the list, though!) and other crap (grab a tray, take off your belt, your shoes, put your laptop separately in here, etc.), and with all the time you spare your security people can have a 10 second chat with each passenger as they go through the gates rather than just dumbly standing there "checking" your passport (which is basically a "computer says no" exercise) or having 4-5 of them wave you through the metal detector while they have a chat.

      Let them stop anyone they like and send them to a private queue for proper pat-down (out of the main queue, away from accomplices, not backing up the frontline guys), and also have automated gates that send 1-in-10 or 1-in-50, or whatever ratio, of people that way completely at r

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

        by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @07:15AM (#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 AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Because terrorists are dumb and they do keep trying to target aircraft.

          Islamic terrorists want to die in the attack so they can become martyrs and collect their 72 virgins. The problem is that if you die in the attack all the skills and knowledge you acquired die with you. It is clear that they are not thinking clearly about how to achieve their long term goals or how to wage the most effective terror campaign, they just want to die in a blaze of glory.

          That is why they always go for the big targets like air

          • by FooRat (182725)

            Because terrorists are dumb and they do keep trying to target aircraft. ... That is why they always go for the big targets like aircraft

            False and false - a quick check of the Global Terrorism Database [umd.edu] reveals that less than 0.2% of all terrorist attacks since 1991 were aircraft hijackings, and in fact less than 0.7% were targeted at any kind of airline-related infrastructure at all. Over 99% of terrorist attacks do not involve airlines or airports. (Anyone can download the database, and confirm these figu

          • by FooRat (182725)

            Islamic terrorists want to die in the attack so they can become martyrs and collect their 72 virgins

            It is because of this that terrorists mostly prefer not to target airlines ... because airline security is so tight, they tend to end up just getting caught and rot in jail. But it's trivial to blow up e.g. a cafe in Tel Aviv for example and collect your virgins.

            • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

              So why do they keep going after aircraft instead of just blowing up the queue of people waiting to go through security? Being a martyr means you only get one chance and in the west there are very few potential suicide bombers, so you have to aim high or your effort will be worthless. They only target cafes in Tel Aviv because there is an on-going conflict, rather than sporadic one-off hits.

              • by FooRat (182725)

                So why do they keep going after aircraft

                They don't "keep going after aircraft" .. check the stats in my other comment next to that one. Aircraft hijacking attempts are less than 1 fifth of 1 percent of terrorist attacks. In other words over 99.8% of terrorist attacks are not targeted at aircraft, and over 99.3% are not targeted at aircraft or airports or anything airline-related. Please do yourself a favor, go to the Global Terrorism Database that I linked, download the stats, and open them yourself.

              • So why do they keep going after aircraft instead of just blowing up the queue of people waiting to go through security?

                As a Grandparent just said, they *don't*

                They go after trains, subways, buses, synagogues, busy cafes and places like Times Square.

                The 2008 Mumbai attacks are a prime example.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Did I mention that getting past the TSA is easy?

            Put the C4, stick of dynamite... or whatever up your ass. Job done. Take an anti-anxiety pill to calm the nerves and walk through. Let them scan you as much as they want...

        • For two reasons that spring to mind:

          Septmebr 2001 attacks depended on the murderers getting control of big planes, and decision makers absolutely don't want the murderers getting the chance to attack rich, powerful people's homes or places of work again.

          The queues at airport also fulfil a security theatre purpose in that they do make people "feel" safer than they are being made.
          Absolutely right that they could detonate the bomb while waiting at the airport, but they wouldn't be getting to pick and choose a

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            So...the people with private jets don't mind if the plebs get blown up at the airport. They're just making sure the bomb can't take off and fly towards them.

            Got it.

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

          by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @09:45AM (#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?

          • by Psyborgue (699890)
            I have no problem with the FBI's honeypot tactics. It prevents potential terrorists from finding real sponsors and doing real harm. Were the FBI not doing what they do, these potential terrorists would be recruited and would kill people. Thus, as far as i'm concerned, a potential terrorist is as guilty as an active terrorist. Before you accuse me of supporting entrapment and some-such, ask yourself what it would take to convince you to blow up a building and kill hundreds of civilians. If you're a sane
        • by 1s44c (552956)

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

          So the TSA goons have jobs and also so the dumb people believe they are more secure.

          The system is transparently stupid to smart people but remember the biggest voting block is very dumb people.

        • by Alioth (221270)

          But you're not a terrorist, and the real terrorists (at least, the ones that affect aviation) are absolutely obsessed with the idea of blowing up planes in flight, and not the queue waiting to go through security. So far there's only been one attack on the terminal itself in the last 20 years that I know of, and all it really resulted in was the terrorist getting badly burned and ending up in jail. But there's been several successful attacks on aircraft.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            If I were "absolutely obsessed" with blowing up a 'plane I'd just put the bomb up my ass and walk through the scanners...

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

          Because

          a) American voters like it - It makes them feel "safe."
          b) American voters don't care about spending billions running up the deficit and adding to the national debt.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Want to improve security? ...security people can have a 10 second chat with each passenger as they go through the gates.

        That doesn't work because any basic anti-depression medication will stop people from having nervous reactions when lying.

        Just rehearse the scenario a couple of times and pop a double-dose half an hour before you go through.

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

          by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlieNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday November 22, 2012 @07:42AM (#42065109) Homepage

          That doesn't work because any basic anti-depression medication will stop people from having nervous reactions when lying.

          Just a minor nit-pick: that's not anti-depressants, that's anti-anxiety. Anti-depressants generally take 2-3 weeks to even start working and they do not affect nervousness. I just quit anti-depressants, so I'd say I know.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Yeah, that's what I meant...was having a "duh" moment.

            • Actually, lots of different drugs will blunt 'nervous reactions'. Antidepressants, anti anxiety drugs, opiates, marijuana, some blood pressure meds, television.

              You can drug someone to the point where nothing bothers them.

              Supposedly, this is used by suicide bombers [cchr.org] as well.

              Better living (or not) through chemistry!

      • could bring aboard a hand-grenade, untracable, in a body-cavity, remove it on the loo and detonate it without it being damped.
        This needs absolutely nothing except from a somewhat dirty imagination and lube.

        The fact that this does not happen all the time tells me that there are way less people eager to blow up planes than we are made believe.

      • by 1s44c (552956)

        Do you really think any terrorist is thinking of using a liquid bomb since the liquid-size limitation rules came in force?

        I don't know about where you are but in Europe these rules don't actually prevent people bringing on enough liquid to make a decent explosion. They don't really do anything except force lot of travelers to throw away perfectly good bottles of water. There is no security in this system, just the illusion of security.

        Have you actually read the rules? They were clearly written by a committee of people who know nothing about chemistry and have zero common sense.

        The EU rules state you can bring one bag of max ca

    • by Dr Max (1696200)
      How well it could be gamed depends on how high you turn up the sensitivity. Which is dependent on how far you are willing to push passengers (false positives) which by the look of things at the moment is quite a long way.
    • Re:It Believes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jonnyj (1011131) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @09:35AM (#42065541)

      Credit risk profiling is part of my job and these models do indeed wok. Unfortunately, they need large sample sizes to be effective. Unless the UKBA has intercepted more than 1,000 terrorists about to jump on a plane, I'd be very sceptical indeed.

      Another big concern is that these models all assume that the future is the same as the past. Feeding the model data on Islamic terrorists isn't likely to help you detect extreme right nationalist groups, for example. As conflict moves around the world, there's a risk that the model will find last year's terrorist-turned-nobel-peace-prize-winner and completely ignore the perpetrator of next year's atrocity.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        credit risk profiling is part of my job and these models do indeed wok.

        ("work")

        Anyway, the risk of credit default is what, a few percent? The risk of a terrorist bomber is thousands of times less. Statistics can't give much guidance. And unlike most credit defaulters, terrorists plan to avoid those looking for them.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          You think they're looking for terrorists? Notice the part where they're analyzing data they get after the flight has left? They're looking for smugglers, illegal aliens and other undesirables, who are prevalent enough that stats will probably help them immensely.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        Credit risk profiling is part of my job and these models do indeed wok

        But as you say, they need large sample sizes to be effective, and they also unfairly disenfranchise a lot of people. It's disturbing enough with credit. It's even worse when you're talking about a basic right like travel.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      A simple problem. A flight is arriving from Yemen at 530am with 100 passengers, and another flight from Amsterdam with 80 passengers, and another from Glasgow with 40 passengers. None of the Glasgow passengers are from connecting flights but 6 are foreign nationals. 8 of the passengers from the Amsterdam flight came from Saudi Arabia. 1 name comes up in a watchlist as a partial match. All planes land at different gates in different terminals. You have 4 checkpoints around the terminals but only 9 available
      • by k2r (255754)

        > The first question the software would have to answer is how does it demonstrate it's working. How do you quantify "success"?

        That's a solved one, google "tiger repellant rock"

  • by badfish99 (826052) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:24AM (#42064885)

    Given the number of bad things that happen on airlines, the software could just assign a risk of "zero" to everything. This would be just as accurate as any other way of finding a non-existent needle in a haystack.

    • by richlv (778496)

      well, it sounds like various factors have different score assigned to them and then it just calculates the end result. reminds me of bayesian filters we all use against email spam...

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Yeah, 'cos those filters totally killed spam. It went down to zero overnight! Oh, wait...

      • by chthon (580889)

        Indeed.

        But if one takes a look at Bayes' theorem and its implications, then it is necessary to take into account the possibility of false positives and negatives, i.e. saying about someone that he is a potential danger and it is not true, and letting someone true who is dangerous, but not flagged as such by the system.

        I think that developing the software for this system is the least problem.

        The big work is in obtaining a database about suspects and non-suspects, and then using this to flesh out the neede

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Bayesian filters essentially learn by failure, not really something you want in this situation.

  • "I'm sorry Hassan, I can't let you take that plane"
    • by rvw (755107)

      "I'm sorry Hassan, I can't let you take that plane"

      But to make it up a little, all your personal info is uploaded to the cloud, so imagine - you are safe here, and still you can fantasize about being up in the air somehow.

  • by daem0n1x (748565) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:40AM (#42064919)

    Now seriously, ! I'm tired of seeing the same bullshit again and again, just with different icing, to justify what's flawed from the very start. This shows that people taking decisions are tied to their own irrationally feelings and not paying attention to what science tells them. [schneier.com]

    I once read a scientific paper which recommends, if I remember correctly, randomly selecting 8% of the passengers for extended verification. This procedure has the advantage of transmitting zero information to the bad guys. If you start profiling, you give them a chance to test the system.

  • by dam.capsule.org (183256) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:44AM (#42064927) Homepage
    They now just have to find somebody which would score as low risk and they won't have any trouble.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      How? It's already very hard for them to find idiots who would participate in a suicide bombing. Trying to find one among non-Muslim whites may be impossible.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        Why would they be looking for Muslim non-whites? They're not terrorists. They'd be looking for Irish people.

  • by pointyhat (2649443) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:56AM (#42064963)

    A couple of years ago I went for an interview for one of these companies rather naively. Their product wasn't described as profiling, surveillance or monitoring but "adaptive security". After I finally cut through all the bullshit and worked out what they were actually selling, I bailed on it (with a proverbial "fuck you stasi bastards" and loss of the job agent). However I couldn't help noticing one thing:

    The management staff were utterly convinced that this was the best way to go and that the entire world's problems were going to be solved by profiling in this way. I'm not talking about it being the marketing pitch, but actually some kind of crazy psychopathic paranoia about their own mortality in the hands of terrorists. I cannot fathom how these guys actually operate with this mindset at all. It was rather shocking actually and has permanently destroyed my acceptance of capitalism. It was literally like OCP or Weyland corporation were real for a few minutes.

    Someone needs to legislate this out of existence because we're fucked if society ends up at the hands of nutjobs like them.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      Well, in practice it's completely untestable (you'd have to let a randomised selection of "high-risk" subjects into the country and see how many of them commit terrorist acts, and nobody is going to allow that), so the only remaining grounds for belief in the system are more or less religious. That doesn't make "some kind of crazy psychopathic paranoia" inevetable, but it makes it unsurprising.
      • Yes. I can see the religious programming now:

        "Looks like Bin Laden" - HRESULT_FULL_CAVITY_SEARCH

        "Has hook instead of hand" - HRESULT_FULL_CAVITY_SEARCH

        "Darker than a bag of flour" - HRESULT_FULL_CAVITY_SEARCH

        "Has Koran instead of Bible" - HRESULT_FULL_CAVITY_SEARCH

        "Has Casio F91-W watch" - HRESULT_STRAIGHT_TO_GITMO

    • Yep, it's also just like how "redlining" [wikipedia.org] for mortgage rates or for loan applications by banks was just a shadowy-sneaky way of putting race-based triggers into a fancy "computer expert decision system" so that the statistical correlations could be blamed: we're not charging them more because they're black: we're charging them more because they fit the criteria x+y+z which we happened to pick so that they select this particular category. Look up redlining.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining [wikipedia.org]
      .
      It's the
    • "has permanently destroyed my acceptance of capitalism"

      Since when did an economic model have any relevance on what security software a company is developing? You think the russians are just sitting around writing screensavers full of fluffy bunny rabbits?

      "I bailed on it (with a proverbial "fuck you stasi bastards" "

      Very mature.

      Jeez, I've never read such a lot of lefty student tosh in all my life.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pointyhat (2649443)

        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.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      I bailed on it (with a proverbial "fuck you stasi bastards" ...

      And ironically demonstrating that you did not believe them to be like the stasi!

      • Hardly. If you read about the Stasi, they were actually a self-perpetuating elite rather than state police. The moment you give anyone power, they devolve into an elite. It's an unfortunate part of human nature.
        • by Chrisq (894406)

          Hardly. If you read about the Stasi, they were actually a self-perpetuating elite rather than state police. The moment you give anyone power, they devolve into an elite. It's an unfortunate part of human nature.

          What I meant was that if you were ever interviewed by the real stasi you would have not said "fuck you stasi bastards" to them (unless you had already lost all hope!)

          • Well not strictly true. I'm not sure the Western propaganda is "fit for purpose" and derives from the cold war paranoia. They did some horrible things (just like the US and UK governments for example and the whole perpetual state of war), but they were mostly quite reasonable apparently[1]. My father, an ex East German shouted much worse things than that at them in 1976 after pissing up the side of a Stasi vehicle and getting arrested. As a repeated offender, he was gently booted over the border to West Ger

    • by FooRat (182725)

      It was rather shocking actually and has permanently destroyed my acceptance of capitalism ... someone needs to legislate this out of existence because we're fucked if society ends up at the hands of nutjobs like them

      A minor detail you probably failed to notice is that the primary demand for systems like this is driven by government-mandated legislation-driven compulsory security requirements. Society is already being controlled by nutjobs like them, they're called 'Congress'.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      The management staff were utterly convinced that this was the best way to go and that the entire world's problems were going to be solved by profiling in this way. I'm not talking about it being the marketing pitch, but actually some kind of crazy psychopathic paranoia about their own mortality in the hands of terrorists. I cannot fathom how these guys actually operate with this mindset at all. It was rather shocking actually and has permanently destroyed my acceptance of capitalism. It was literally like O

    • by http (589131)
      You're fucked. I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do about it except keep on not being be a nutjob.
  • and zero accountability?
    Sounds like a plan!
  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @07:41AM (#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.

    • by stew77 (412272)

      I am no expert on machine learning, but isn't this whole approach flawed to begin with because we don't have enough terrorists? To verify your algorithms, you'd need sufficiently large training, validation and test sets, and I highly doubt that there are enough terrorists to build those sets.

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        If you treat the problem as "crime" rather than "terrorism," you have a much deeper pool of knowledge and events to deal with.

        However you still are stuck with two problems: there is very little correlation between criminal activity and the actions of someone wanting to cause problems on a plane; and standard police work does a piss-poor job of finding sociopaths.

        I am of the school of thought that something can be done to improve the intelligence and efficiency of airport security to reduce risks of "bad stu

  • If it won't use race, religion, or country then its a bit like asking someone to run a race without using their legs. When will people accept that a woman's institute member is a lot less likely to be a terrorist than someone who has just converted to Islam [wikipedia.org]
    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      I would have no problem whatsoever profiling Muslims, given the percentage of terrorist actions committed by them. The problem is you can't tell a Muslim by looking at one and the ones likely to blow shit up are not going to show it if there is any such profiling system in place. It works on El-Al because they can have such a large whitelist. If you're a Jew with an Israeli passport, you're very unlikely to self-detonate and as such get superficial one on one screening. If you're anybody else, you get a
  • Great idea! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anti-pop-frustration (814358) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @07:55AM (#42065159) Journal

    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

    Great idea, that way anybody that has ever been put on a watch list can be harassed for ever! Not because a court of law determined they did anything wrong, no, but because they're on a list (or have been on one). You see, they probably did something wrong or else they wouldn't have been on that list in the first place...

    Never mind the fact that this is all done in secret, with no judicial oversight, no accountability and no way to appeal those decisions and that people basically end up on those lists for exercising their political rights.

    Try working as a journalist/filmmaker and reporting on the global war on terror, try actively opposing the US drone war or try supporting wikileaks (or any organization that the US has secretly decided they do not like) and see how quickly you end up on those watch lists.

    Of course, you'll never know you're on one of those lists until the next time you try flying to the US, then you'll be detained and questioned (not to mention laptop seizure etc.). It happened many times to Jacob Appelbaum [wikipedia.org], a Tor developer, it happened to Imran Khan [guardian.co.uk], one of the most popular politician in Pakistan and it happened repeatedly to Laura Poitras [salon.com], an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker. These people are spied on and harassed because of their political opinions, thanks to the global surveillance state we now live in.

    How submissive have we become that as people living in democracies we even accept the existence of "watchlists"?

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      ..how does this thing even differ from a list? maybe it flags 5% of every flight as high risk.

  • If a disproportionately large percentage of all people in group X (where X is, say, 'terrorist risk') have some factor Y in common, (where Y is, say, a particular race, religion, or country of origin), to the point that there appears to be a statistical correlation, but an equally small percentage of people with factor Y in common actually could be delegated to group X, then those factors will balance eachother out, and the software can reasonably exclude factor Y from consideration. However, even if the s
  • What is it that makes everyone think that airplanes must become flying fortresses instead of just being as secure/dangerous as the rest of our lives already is? I can visit any government building, including courts and parliaments with less security theatre than I can board a plane. Nobody does a background check on you before you can walk in front of the white house. Nobody screens your luggage when you board a train, enter a subway station or stand in line at the museum.

    The idea that there is something so

    • by k2r (255754)

      > What is it that makes everyone think that airplanes must become flying fortresses instead of
      > just being as secure/dangerous as the rest of our lives already is?

      Because people already are frightened because of flying itself and giving away control to the pilots/team/ground staff.

      I'm curious whether frequent flyers are as impressed by the security theater as casual flyers. For myself I worry more about the taxi-driver to/from the airports

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 22, 2012 @09:03AM (#42065409)

    1 - Why don't you go back to the time when you spent a minimal amount of money on scanning passengers looking for a needle in a haystack, and instead concentrated on intelligence and infiltration of terrorist groups so that you can concentrate your resources?

    2 - Why don't you realise that 'terrorists' (and there seem to be very few of them nowadays) aren't doing it because 'they hate our freedom' but because they're pissed off with some foreign activity we've undertaken? Rethinking some of the mad and pointless wars we've been starting would cut back on the terrorist threat AND improve the government's popularity with the 75% of the voters who aren't part of the military/arms production complex...

  • by shawnhcorey (1315781) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @10:01AM (#42065697) Homepage
    If not, it's an arbitrary decision. And it leaves their government opened to be sued.
  • I see a lot of contents from people who seem pretty sure of themselves, but clearly have no training or experience in security. Machine learning? That's nothing to do with it, humans can and do input the parameters. You think these criteria can't be effective? There are a number of characteristics which have been true of every single hijacker ever. The most obvious - it's politically to incorrect to notice that they are ALWAYS young males, every single time.
    • So you've eliminated half of travelers, since young males make up the largest single demographic that fly. Until you reduce that amount by a couple orders of magnitude, you haven't done anything effective.
  • "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..."

    ...which singles people out using factors like race, religion or country of origin.

    They can deny it as "strongly" as they want. How else would they get anything remotely relevant without resorting to racial or religious profiling? And would that be u
  • So the same idea that led to junk bonds being rated as safe investments is not going to be applied to people?

    While I grant you that every method of screening passengers involves risk profiling of some sort, boiling it down to a series of expert-system questions and algorithms (hey it's cheap and fast!) is bound to have some spectacular failures and, more importantly, many, many false-positives. Imagine if this was run at a national level against all citizens, preemptively? Why wait for them to even buy a ti

  • I believe that this establishes a new front in the war on tourism.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz

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