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back to article Homeland Security bungles 'pre-crime' tech test docs

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been testing its behavioral monitoring CCTV system on the public without the proper paperwork. The Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) system uses high-resolution cameras and other “non-invasive” sensors to monitor human behavior, including “cardiovascular signals, …

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Base Rate Fallacy

...and then some.

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Anonymous Coward

Test sites

Given the controversial (read dubious) nature of any such technology, perhaps test sites should reflect what a bad idea it is to deliver accusations of wrongdoing based on the pimping of "miracle cure" technology by those with a vested interest. Suitable venues might include any buildings containing politicians or civil servants, Wall st/City of London and "staff only" areas of police stations. If the results (false positives and logically ensuing consequences notwithstanding) are seen as useful contribution to a free and open society by those under surveillance, the rest of us won't have anything to worry about, will we?

I'm not holding my breath.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

Sigh.

Why aren't I smart enough to invent some kind of bogus technology that I can sell to paranoid governments for vast quantities of money? It's not as if you have to demonstrate actually results.

LIsa: It's like me saying that this rock keeps the tigers away.

Homer: How do I know it works?

Lisa: You don't see any tigers around, do you?

Homer: I'll buy your rock!

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Big Brother

Reminds me of the movie "Equilibrium".

Welcome to a world where having any emotion is a cause for suspition

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Holmes

Although here the settings will be different.

It's not so much going to trip on "emotional" than on "shifty-eyed" and "olive-skinned".

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Big Brother

Reminds me of the movie "Gattaca"

"Sorry Sir, you are genetically inferior person, you'll have to sit at the back"

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Boffin

This is a really bad idea

The problem is not just lots of false positives, but that some people will trigger the thing over and over and over again.

(And there's a strong chance that the "highly skilled" operator will see the record of them being flagged many times and take that as proof of guilt.)

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Unhappy

I wonder.......

When a nervous, asthmatic old man with a heart condition goes into the system, how long will it be before five security goons taze him then sit on him? (It'll be a 'precautionary measure' that was fully justified by scan results and system heuristics.)

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Anonymous Coward

Fairly typical...

... of the americans to take a reasonable idea, automate all life out of it, lie about it, pee in it, poo on it with a cherry on top, then call it their own. Then they'll make it fit for manning with some dimwit goons to lord over the people with, or just automate that too until they can stick a missile up your arse with from a continent away. "Can't be too secure, amirite or amirite?" Also fairly typical that if it doesn't have blinkenlights they're not going to touch it. It makes them that much more sterile, inhuman, and that much more an acceptable target for those parties that need some big bad to build little empires of ideology against.

Overall, it's selfish and stupid on a grande scale. And far from the first time they went with this folly. "We did gone and done fix yer up real good, guv" alright.

Just admit that some things are people problems and must therefore be solved by people. Not because the technology can't go after symptoms, but because at the end of the day the people are still people and need to be treated as such.

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FoldIt

What computers couldn't do, gamers did. I do believe they got Regged into saturating their bandwidth a month or two ago.

Also, please don't go lumping all of us USers together on stuff like this. We think they're tossers too.

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Anonymous Coward

"oh noes! that's our^Wthe government, it's not us!"

That's also fairly typical. Do you make the same careful distinction when it's about unprecisely specified scary brown people or their governments? All I do is look at what "america" presents itself like to me.

Why should I have to go down there (and submit to fingerprinting and patting down and/or getting pervscanned and have everything down to what I'm reading on the plane* entered in massive databases kept for whatwasit 99 years or so) for a anthropological study just so I can avoid offending the natives by tossing off a couple well-known and wearily worn stereotypes? And if I do, will you return the favour? No? Thought so.

Like 95% of the world, I have to pay close attention to your elections to know what winds** will be blowing in my backwood too for the next couple of years, yet get no vote. How's that for fair? Do we need to rise to forcefully kick them out because you're not doing it, only to find you defending them because when all's said and done, they're still fellow countrymen?

* I think it was John Gilmore that did a couple FOIA requests and found they'd indeed recorded that and much more of his flights.

** Tyoped that as "windows" first, which may or may not be more accurate.

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Silver badge

minority report

Imagine the number of nervous fliers in the world. If the machine says you are guilty you are. Soon you will be put in front of an electronic judge and jury, no right of appeal because the device is infallible.

Welcome to our brave new world.

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It's not infallible, what about the minority report? but I digress - I get the gist..

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Happy

The Regs Terririst Gude for would be Terrorists

Whist not The Reg's fault there's sufficient information for a smart terrorist, not a Richard Read, to Google enough information to possibly beat these machines. The weakness in the US system is the automation; humans have gut feelings, hairs on the backs of their necks, etc. which adds an extra dimension.

An acquaintance who works for customs once explained what makes ;green line' monitors decide to inspect someone. He also explained what would minimise inspections when you have to line up for immigration.

I've used the techniques for years with great success. Mind you, as a frequent international flyer I never carry duty free goods either.

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FAIL

Thought police?

It's fairly well documented that polygraph tests can be altered by people who are not highly trained spies and commies but do a bit of meditation.

Also that it's not too difficult to manipulate the base-line test by feeling really guilty about something like stealing sweets as a kiddie.

This is somehow different?

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Actually, it's been well documented that Polygraphs only work on people that believe polygraphs work.

Polygraphs don't work on those that understand the previous statement.

One of the best illustrations of how a polygraph works is at the end of The Fifth Elephant, where Dee is told to 'tell the truth'.

In reality though, it's the belief that the machine detects lies, that leads to the worry about telling a lie that can be detected, that makes your body indicators spike when you tell a lie. When you know that, you don't worry about being detected, so the anxiety of trying to 'beat' the machine doesn't happen and it tends not to register.

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Devil

No they will not

As far as a true terrorist is concerned he is acting for the greater good.

This system may pick out an occasional non-professional pick-pocketer (it will not detect the true pros). It may also occasionally pick up a "four lions" band of muppetones.

It will always fail to pick out another Anders Breivik on time because he will not be showing any "deviant" behaviour signs and indicating any "deviant" chemical misbalances (at least at a level more than me or you after a bad day at the office).

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Anonymous Coward

Probable Cause

The machine doesn't need to be effective, the law enforcement officer just needs to say "this machine says there's 90% chance your committing a crime, this is probable cause to search your vehicle" and there goes your 4th amendment rights.

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Big Brother

Probably usable to sniff out females that feel a bit ... hot

1) Change algorithm

2) BEEP BEEP BEEP

3) "Young lady, would you step this way, please? Yes, that room over there."

4) ???

5) PROFIT!

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Gold badge
Thumb Down

Or as the KGB liked to put it.

"You're *all* guilty of something, we just need to find out what it is. We never make mistakes"

Want to visit the Gulag Archipelago?

Wait a few years. You won't have to.

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FAIL

"There are no "innocents" involved in current testing...

"[...] all the research was conducted on volunteers who were fully aware they were being watched."

So unless they're amazingly good actors the "Observer Paradox" comes into effect whereby the knowledge that you're being watched changes the way you behave, thus invalidating the results.

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Bronze badge

Cost effectiveness?

It seems a shame that the developers could not instead have been working towards providing a similar system for use in general health diagnosis.

To the extent that the physiological measures are useful indicators, there appears to be a much greater opportunity for saving life and limb from the use of this sort of technology in the health industry rather than homeland security.

Even in airports, there appears to be more scope in detecting potential victims of stroke and embolism than terrorists. Although the overall in-flight (natural) death risk is low at 125 deaths per billion km, or 25 deaths per million flights, there are more than 10 million passenger flights each year in the USA.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2214486/pdf/14761107.pdf

http://www.bts.gov/press_releases/2010/bts015_10/html/bts015_10.html#table_05

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Can you imagine the conversation

"Excuse me, sir, you're going to die of a heart attack if you take this flight".

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Anonymous Coward

Uncle George would be proud

George Orwell would have been proud that the themes he predicted in "1984" were only a few years early...

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Megaphone

Huxley

I think Huxley has more to be proud of,

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2010/07/amusing-ourselves-to-death/

The government didn't have to ram anything down our throats, we drank the Kool-Aid willingly and came back for seconds.

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Facepalm

...only a few years early...

Facepalm says it all.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Here is a hint

Perhaps, Mr Obama, if you didn't go round the world pissing people off and bombing their weddings then you would not have to be all panicy that one of them might come visiting while a bit cross.

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DHS Advanced Research Agency

http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Muppet_Labs

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70% effective, maybe because you have people coming from one temperature zone to another and then rushing to the gate while pulling/carrying luggage.

"The Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) system uses high-resolution cameras and other “non-invasive” sensors to monitor human behavior, including “cardiovascular signals, pheromones, electrodermal activity, and respiratory measurements,” according to a 2008 DHS report on the project."

So cardiovascular and respiratory measurements could easily be skewed. Electrodermal? Just what people want, to be hooked up and have electricity put through their body. If they suspect the suspect, do they turn it up to taser levels? Pheromones? Some of the fat fucks sweat just thinking about walking 5 feet.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

Total foolishness...

... 'cause it will give the customs guys a false sense of security.

1.- Take the Valium

2.- Pass the control

3.- Board the plane

4.- Profit!

Seriously, I could think of better ways for the USA gov. to expend their money, and these ways would increase security in the world far more than this Security Theater ©.

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Oh great, it's been used by the Israelis

Bcos we all know the Israelis are *soooo* keen on human rights. Let us know when it's been tried by a *civilised* country, not a country run by religious fundamentalist nutters, yeah?

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Big Brother

Uh-oh

I find the prospect of being under constant govt surveillance highly stressful. And this tech essentially detects and measures stress, right?

I'm fucked.

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