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Could eventually be deployed at airports, border crossings, and other public gatherings

Security personnel working for the Department of Homeland Security may soon be able to remotely monitor crowds for the behavioral signals of a terrorist, using a computer system that scans their pulses, body language, breathing rates, and facial temperatures.

The program, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” or FAST, works as a combination of custom software and crowd-monitoring body sensors, strategically placed at airports, U.S. border crossings, and other public, high-security areas.

In simulated scenarios, the DHS says FAST is accurate in detecting suspicious behavior in almost four out of five cases. One such trial, run recently at an equestrian ranch in Maryland, paid more than 140 participants $150 to walk through FAST’s sensor array; a handful of the participants were given instructions to act shifty, evasive, deceptive, or even hostile. FAST had an effective accuracy rate of “about [78 percent] on mal-intent detection, and [80 percent] on deception,” according to spokesman John Verrico.

“We're still very early on in this research, but it is looking very promising,” he said.

Individuals detected as suspicious by FAST will be pulled aside for light questioning by security staff. Information processed by the system will never be matched with names, said Verrico, and it will only be used to help security screeners decide whom to question. After that, data from FAST is discarded.

Beyond simply discarding data, Verrico points out that the system is subject to intense privacy controls (PDF).

DHS researchers are designing FAST with mobility in mind, and over the long term would like to roll out portable vehicles for use in concerts, sporting events, and other public gatherings: once the technology is perfected, writes New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science blog, FAST trucks could be as common a sighting at public gatherings as “mobile toilets and catering trucks.”

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s John Verdi said FAST is “substantially more invasive than screening in airports,” calling it a “medical exam” that the government has no right to conduct. Critics are concerned that the program could reveal physical conditions like heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels – a blatant privacy invasion – as well as set off false alarms.

“What determines your heart rate is a whole bunch ofreasons besides hostile intent,” said Michigan State University’s Timothy Levine, an expert on deceptive behavior.

FAST appears to be yet another aspect of the U.S. – as well as the rest of the world’s – governments’ growing fascination with biometric data on citizens: the FBI’s “Next Generation Identification” system, currently still in development, seeks to catalogue almost every major identifying characteristic about the U.S. criminal population, including fingerprints, retinal prints, and tattoo/scar markings.

Like the NGI, FAST is still under development and has several years left before it is ready for widespread, public usage – if it even makes it that far. The program is in its second year in development, and has three left to go. USA Today notes that the Transportation Security Administration already has more than 2,000 human screeners doing the same thing – essentially paving the way for their replacement and more widespread deployment by FAST.

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RE: Nazi Germany
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 10:24:27 AM , Rating: 2
So you're going to say IBM is a terrible country because 80 years ago they provided some equipment to the Nazis?

Do you not know that many corporations and your current Presidents grandfather funded the Nazi regime.

Read the truth before making a claim. There is a difference between investing in a country and supporting a regime.

RE: Nazi Germany
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 10:25:08 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Nazi Germany
By stilltrying on 9/24/2008 11:28:35 AM , Rating: 1
you believe youre propaganda and I will believe mine. come back in 2 years and we will re-discuss meanwhile the whole financial system is about to be nationalized um i mean socialized uh i mean fascized. See you in a couple if America makes it that long. look at the fasci symbol in the US senate. find that peculiar, a bunch of sticks with an ax, um i mean on the dime. once again see you in 2

RE: Nazi Germany
By mdogs444 on 9/24/2008 11:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
Blind faith doesn't make it true stilltrying.

RE: Nazi Germany
By stilltrying on 9/24/08, Rating: 0
RE: Nazi Germany
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 2:24:43 PM , Rating: 2
Umm...where did I say I'm for this bailout?

RE: Nazi Germany
By stilltrying on 9/24/2008 4:09:15 PM , Rating: 2
umm you didnt. umm im saying nazi germany fascism/socialism

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