Never let them see you sweat

Several Israeli firms are working on biometric screening systems for airport security, unobtrusively measuring factors such as heart rate and respiration. While we usually applaud biometrics that are based on universal capabilities, we’re worried about this one. How will it treat people with autism, panic disorders, or any number of legitimate conditions that may cause people to be stressed without intending to commit terrorism? For that matter, would it unfairly target people who have heart murmurs or breathing tubes?

CNN: Behavioral screening — the future of airport security?

This entry was posted in Cognitively impaired, Just a prototype so far, Market drivers, Security, privacy, Transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Never let them see you sweat

  1. gREG says:

    Could this technology be developed someday to determine the loyalty of people who passed by its scanners, There loyalty to say the present goverment. Business, or religion?
    If so then Big brother is here indeed.

  2. Mel says:

    I agree. This is very scary stuff. And the idea that they could be exposing me to subliminal messaging scares me too. Who knows what they are throwing in there? One day I wake up and really have a hankering for a Big Mac, even though I don’t eat meat. It scares me that this world no longer has any respect for privacy. I am all for safety, but this is absurd. I don’t want Jihad messages to be “flashed before” me. I worked with developmentally challanged adults, and I too am very concerned about how readings will be interperted and how they will be treated as a consequence of this proposed technology.

  3. Adam says:

    Hm… that could be embarrassing too…… What would happen if that moment passing the sensors while i look at a sexy woman and think little bit dirty…. would they know what I am thinking?

    Would they tell me?

  4. Based on lab psychology, you can indeed detect elevated emotional states, and they cannot be masked intentionally. This does not reveal the content, but it is reasonable to use odd states as a clue. However, what seems to be entirely missed is that this technology could easily be thwarted by the same method used in what are called “double blind” testing of pharmaceuticals. The person carrying the weapon does not know it is a weapon, or that they have been duped by the terrorist who has just recently befriended them…

  5. Scott says:

    Well, a seat full of mysterious sensors might sound like a good idea, but I think they could tell a lot more if they attached some sensors to your hands, feet, and private bits.

    The subliminal message system could be used for advertising as well, which could bring in revenue to help pay for the system.

    Some quick genetic testing and a pre-boarding credit check is probably a good idea too.

    Another good idea would be to have the FA’s berate the pax and issue harsh demands to follow a series of pointless rules, then have sensors check the pax reactions. The good news is the first part of this plan is already in place.

    An exit “intent check” could be performed by telling the pax that their luggage has been lost and there is no system to track it and no way of knowing where it is.

  6. Bill says:

    The ability to detect elevated emotional states means nothing. What if you’re afraid of flying? What if you’re stressed out because you’re running late and may miss your flight, or because you stood on line to check in for too long, or because there was traffic on the way to the airport, or even just the normal stress and anxiety of traveling, feeling you may have forgotten something important, etc.? What if you’re stressed out because you actually *fear* a terrorist attack or some such occurrence? What if you’re just in a bad mood that day because of something completely unrelated to flying or politics or terror? Or, dare I say, what if you’re not particularly a fan of the government or its policies, but you have no intention of blowing anything up or committing a terrorist act? What if you are able to read Arabic, and the “subliminal” messages elicit a response in you that the “screeners” could interpret as a threat, even if it’s not? What if you just naturally have a bit of a temper, or an elevated heart rate, or high blood pressure?

    And if you do get “caught” because of any of the above, what happens? Who interrogates you? Where do you go? Who compensates you for your time and your missed flight when it is finally proven (?) that you are innocent?

    Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? The way flying has become (and seemingly will become), the assumption seems to be that everyone is guilty, even if they’re innocent.

    Anyone remember “Minority Report” and pre-crime? I think we’re seeing that with concepts such as these.

  7. Bill says:

    And one more thing: what really annoys me is that these are questions that these “reporters” should be asking when preparing articles on these topics. Instead, everything is reported matter-of-factly. The representatives from these security firms didn’t even sweat when answering these questions, and the article is very one-sided. Where’s the concerns about privacy, about false positives, about the ability of this “technology” to truly be effective?

    And guess what….what if somebody did actually have an intention to cause harm…say, trying to break the cockpit door down or beat up the cabin crew, but had no weapons, no affiliation to a terror group, nothing on them that would be considered physical evidence of their attack? What would the actual “evidence” be, considering that they were stopped before they ever committed a crime? Some sort of biometric scan that claims that you were angry that day? This is truly stupid.

  8. Bill says:

    And yet another thing…when you’re stopped and questioned/interrogated, will they perform more biometric tests on you? Would the fact that you’re angry or stressed out or nervous (because you’re a perfectly innocent, law-abiding individual that’s just been stopped and questioned) be held against you?

    I guess these questions are so relevant, probing and to the point that I could never become a journalist…

  9. Bill says:

    Michael…there is nothing “odd” about being in a state of distress when you’re traveling, especially with the way traveling has become today and with the stresses that are associated with it as well. As you pointed out, emotional states can be detected, but not the cause of those emotional states. I sense A LOT of false positives and innocent people being stopped as a result of such screening methods.

    However, you make an absolutely excellent point about the “double blind” scenario…where the person carrying the weapon doesn’t even know they are carrying it.

    Another plausible scenario: someone who is mentally insane and has every intention to, say, carry a gun onto the plane to start firing, but who is completely cool and collected about it, who is feeling no emotional distress about it whatsoever, as if it’s a perfectly normal thing for them to do. It doesn’t sound like this “advanced technology” would detect those intentions, and if metal detectors, etc. are done away with, well then that insane person could easily bring their gun on board with them and start firing.

  10. Bryan says:

    I was stopped at the airport a few months back because my flight had been canceled, and we had been booked onto another one — that’s what the TSA agent gave as the reason. I asked her why that would be an indicator of a terrorist — are terrorists really bad at figuring out which flight to take to LaGuardia? Her answer was that people whose flights had been delayed or canceled were more likely to be “disgruntled,” and therefore needed to be searched.

    I asked her what she expected to find, though — after all, if you’re at the airport and your flight gets canceled, do you run out to the shooting range next door and buy a gun? (Or, since it was a bag inspection, I guess you’d have to run to the local military base and get some undetectable high-tech explosives of some kind — then make it back for the flight.) I mean, people who sneak weapons onboard usually PLAN it — and who plans to have a canceled flight?

    The conclusion I’ve come to is that they weren’t looking for weapons, explosives, etc. — they were just picking people who were having bad days, and pushing them a little to see if they’d flip out. (I didn’t, of course.)

    This new plan is much the same idea — taking vulnerable, tired people and giving them a little mindf**k to see what happens. It’s incredibly intrusive — far more intrusive than searching bags. It’s so personally invasive — forcing you to effectively think a certain way, or risk being detained. I’d rather have a guard give me the full-body patdown every time than have some electronic system messing with my head to see if it could break me down — it’s almost like being interrogated. It steals the last privacy available to a person, the privacy of their own mind.

    Seriously — if this is the future, I’d rather walk.

  11. Anton says:

    I agree with Bryan and Bill, I get very easily angry when i fly. I am tired of go to an airport 2 hours early to queue to get scanned and checked, on a flight of 1.5 hrs it adds another 2 hrs. In addition then on the other side you may have to check for the entry with more time spent in checking your passport with funny looks from the immigration officer. I have decided to travel by car, because…apart being cheaper…I do not have to go through all that and I feel more relaxed. If someone tried to get me angry to see if i flip, I would flip because it is an infringement of my rights, and I am sick and tired of it

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