Friday, February 3, 2012

New Future Airport Screening Technology Seeking to Auto-Find Terrorists & Criminals

F.A.S.T. the Automatic Screening Technology to Routinely Detect Terrorists and Criminals

Those of you who are offended by "inappropriate" and "offensive" airport security pat-downs may soon be able to breath easier. But at what a price?

The Department of Homeland Security is currently developing a new $20 million dollar technology, called F.A.S.T., or “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” which will use crowd-monitoring body sensors that detect individuals’ pulses, body language, breathing rates and facial temperatures to determine threats.

FAST is credited with surprisingly accurate results, identifying suspicious behavior in four out of five scenarios. The effective accuracy rate of FAST is said to be 78% on mal-intent detection, and 80% on deception.

Project officials hope various sensors and cameras located at security checkpoints that would measure the natural signals coming from your body, such as your heart rate, breathing, eye movement, body temperature and fidgeting, can help security more effectively find out if you are a terrorist or criminal, rather than trying to find whether you have hidden explosives or whether you're carrying a weapon. 

Project manager Robert Burns said that those physiological signs, measured together, will indicate whether you might have the desire or intent to do harm.

"There's been a large field of research that ties your physical reactions to your mental state, your emotional state. We're looking for those signals that your body gives off naturally," he continued.

Burns said the technology will pick up signals that may not be noticed by a human and help security personnel decide more effectively whether to hold someone for questioning.

FAST could even be used in locations other than airports, wherever there are security concerns, such as convention centers, federal buildings, mass transit centers, arenas and stadiums.

One of the units is a thermal imaging device that measures the temperature of a face. A screener would look for temperature changes (a possible response to stress) as a person is asked questions. 

Some have compared FAST with the Pre-Crime of the movie Minority Report
Another device, an eye tracker, follows a person's gaze, checking blinking and pupil dilation. One of the machines tracks the heart and another the respiratory rates. Believe it or not, there is a fidgeting monitor! And they aren't just going to look at gestures, they are also going to look for the absence of signals, which is indicative of something being wrong.

Civil liberties groups claim this screening technology is an invasion of privacy. "Nobody has the right to look at my intimate bodily functions, my breathing, my perspiration rate, my heart rate, from afar," a prominent civil rights advocate said. 

John Verdi of the Electronic Privacy Information Center states that FAST is “substantially more invasive in airports,” referring to it as a medical exam that the government has no right to conduct. There’s also concern that FAST could improperly identify physical conditions heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels as threats. But wouldn't that be a good thing?

Maybe the security guard at the airport could tell me when I'm getting ready to have a heart attack? Maybe airport security can refer me to a doctor?
Written By: Tom Retterbush

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