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Biometric Terrorist Detector 322

Posted by samzenpus
from the tell-the-machine-everything-you-know dept.
neutralino writes "The Wall Street Journal has this story about a biometric airport security system which uses biometric responses — blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels — to series of questions ("Are you smuggling drugs?") to identify passengers with "hostile intent." According to the article, "In the latest Israeli trial, the system caught 85% of the role-acting terrorists, meaning that 15% got through, and incorrectly identified 8% of innocent travelers as potential threats, according to corporate marketing materials.""
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Biometric Terrorist Detector

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  • by XorNand (517466) * on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:53AM (#15903210)
    The busiest airports [wikipedia.org] in the world handle 30-80 million passengers per year. With an 8% false positive rate, a 30M/year airport would flag almost 8,800 innocent people per day, per airport as a terrorist. How can this be considered even remotely feasible? Even if getting flagged just means that you have to undergo a more rigorous personal inspection it's going to piss off a lot of passengers. Plus the TSA people aren't going to put much creedance into something that dramatically increases their daily workload, but might catch one terrorist every decade. Just another misuse of expensive technology.
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:56AM (#15903239)
      Not to mention the difference between a "role-acting" terrorist and a real terrorist.
    • Holy shit batman.... LOGIC!?!?!? You should run for office :)

      You wouldn't win, but you should run regardless. Maybe we'll get lucky.
    • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:03PM (#15903306) Homepage Journal
      it's going to piss off a lot of passengers
      It will do more than that if the result of failing this Voight-Kampff test [wikipedia.org] is a hole the size of a dinner plate in the passenger's chest.
    • Fair point but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SPYvSPY (166790) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:06PM (#15903330) Homepage
      ...this tool in the right hands is effective. Israeli airlines and airports have the reputation for being the safest in the world. A big part of the reason for that is that they focus on passengers' behavior rather than what they put into their bags. Granted, the volume of air travel to and from Israel is probably a tiny fraction of what most major airports see. The questions are: (a) whether the Israelis' success is scalable to other airports, and (b) whether this device is a valuable supplement to a well-trained security team--one that can understand the machine's limitations and leverage its strengths in assessing the stream of passengers.
      • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:18PM (#15903422)
        Have you ever travelled through an Israeli airport? The mere idea that we could adopt similar policies in an airport as busy as, say, Heathrow is mind-bogglingly stupid.

        They're also useless: every time I've been to Israel I've had to suffer third-degree searching on the way in and out. Oddly enough, I'm not a terrorist, and I also have no desire to fly to or from Israel again: they don't care, because they put security above happy travellers, but the rest of the world has different priorities.
        • ...they put security above happy travellers, but the rest of the world has different priorities.

          True, they put profit above happy travellers.

        • by SPYvSPY (166790)
          Spoken like someone who doesn't know what is at stake. I am 'happy' if I can get onto an airplane and arrive at my destination without dying.
      • Actually, focusing on passenger bahaviour and using some version of what amounts to a 'lie detector' are two mutually exclusive things. In fact, with a device like this installed, I'd say that airports would be more likely to ignore passenger behaviour, since the 'lie detector' would be checking for them.

        Nothing like wild goose chases to make terrorists' jobs easier. This sounds like a TSA shoe-in.

      • Re:Fair point but... (Score:3, Informative)

        by wizbit (122290)
        Israeli airlines and airports have the reputation for being the safest in the world.

        Can I just point out that they have two international airports?

        Israel does a fine job, but let's not assume we can deploy and trust anything like this in an O'Hare, Laguardia, Dulles, LAX, etc without nearly psychic success rates.
    • Here's a question: how many people are being pulled aside for random screenings right now?
      • Thousands are selected for screening at random in Atlanta's Hartsfield or Chicago's O'Hare airport everyday. The problem is they are completely selected at "TSA random". This includes the 80 year old grandmother and the young family with two kids in tow. I find it startling that someone would think this system would be less effective at selecting candidates for random screenings than some TSA employee selecting passengers at random.

        (TSA Random = Picking people regardless of appearance, actions, or demean
    • Such systems almost invariably fall over due to the FP/FN rates and the "low rate fallacy". Here's the ever-reliable Schneier on the subject. [schneier.com] Profound, simple, enables everyone to immediately debunk much of the security theatre we are surrounded by these days. (warning, don't try arguing it out with a cop or other jumped-up little hitler type as you are likely to find yourself banged up for being a smart-arse, barrack-room lawyer or similar troublemaker.)
    • Agreed. The sample contained far more criminals per capita than any airport will (hopefully) ever have. A skilled agent should be able to spot the nieve college student who was talked into smuggling drugs home from spring break. Terrorists often disgustingly believe that what they are doing is right therefore it may be harder to spot them. I think that human vigilence is the answer. TSA screeners may not be the greatest law enforcement officials ever known, but patrolling police can often spot trouble.
    • That number is just small enough to seem effective to the bulk of opinionated political junkies who know next to nothing about computers, statistics, etc., but large enough to allow the TSA to catch no terrorists while claiming credit for being busy. It's a bureaucratic win-win. Little hard and scary work, lots of busy work and everyone is happy until it doesn't do its job when it counts, a terrorist gets through and people die.

      Then, TSA gets more power.

      The only time that failure is bad for such an agency i
    • Any technology is going to be useless in preventing terroristic attacks if you force conditions upon it that only make it harder to succeed.

      We know a great deal about the people who have or tried to attack airliners. We have age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, countries of origin, and other factors. Unfortunately its not nice to use these in the process.

      Apply this technology and similar to people who fit the above categories and your false alert numbers are more manageable. It will never happen.

      Apparently 30
      • We know a great deal about the people who have or tried to attack airliners. We have age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, countries of origin, and other factors. Unfortunately its not nice to use these in the process.

        I'm blowing my chance to mod here, but I feel that I must answer.

        The problem with profiling is not just that it's wrong or not "PC," but that it doesn't work. Remember, the terrorists aren't dummies. If the authorities start pulling every Arab off of every plane, the terrorists groups will soon

        • The problem with profiling is not just that it's wrong or not "PC," but that it doesn't work. Remember, the terrorists aren't dummies. If the authorities start pulling every Arab off of every plane, the terrorists groups will soon get wise to that. They will search their ranks for the least Arab looking members or recruit radicalized westerners. Narrowing the focus of your search just gives your target a chance to adapt.

          Or they'll find someone else who will be on the same flight and slip whatever they n

          • Physical characteristics are NOT effective when profiling a terrorist.

            The real terrorist will put the weapon on a non-profiled person and then run some of his buddies through the security system to make sure that any available security personel are used up checking his clean friends.

            The end result is that the weapon is onboard the plane and so is the terrorist.

            It's far better to just randomly search passengers. At least then you have some small chance of finding the weapon.
      • Not sure whether that would work - Al-Qaeda seems to have enough resources to circumvent racial profiling. There has already been the case of that shoe bomber, and there was Anne Murphy (that pregnant Irish girl), too.
    • Plus the TSA people aren't going to put much creedance into something that dramatically increases their daily workload, but might catch one terrorist every decade.

      The TSA already has various means of determining which passengers will be more thoroughly searched. This is simply another tool to be used in those heuristics. TFA says that this technology will enhance, not replace, existing technology.

      Airport security already has a seemingly insurmountable task of finding the handful of bad guys out of those m

    • Um it would flag those people for an extra check. Sure as hell beats the system of "we have to check everyone"

      Who said anything about flagging them AS terrorists, rather it is a system to flag people to further check while letting everyone else go through.

      Certainly makes sense to me, but you have to ignore the slashdot headline, but that is a requirement of this site anyways.
    • This is insanity. From what I can tell, they basically want to hook everyone going through up to a smaller polygraph machine.

      Hasn't anyone got it yet that the polygraph test is fatally flawed?

      It's flawed in finding people who are guilty because they can easily cheat the test [wikihow.com] by knowing how it's administered. Basically, certain questions (the "control" questions) establish a baseline for lying, which everyone will generally have the same answer to, but will feel uncomfortable answering, like, "have you eve
  • by Kagura (843695) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:55AM (#15903229)
    I think this is what we've been waiting for. Some method to intuitively deduce whether a person is telling a fib! The only thing this device is really missing is a name. How about ... the Polygraph? Wow, kind of catchy!
  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:55AM (#15903232)
    Sorry, but my blood pressure would rise if some cop comes up to me and starts interrogating me in the middle of an airport. most people almost have a heart attack when they are driving and you see the blue and red lights roll up behind you. I don't see how this is the slightest bit effective.
    • These devices don't measure against a set point, the measure against beleived truths. So if your heart is beating hard when the cop asks you your name and where you are traveling, but then beats even harder when they ask you if you are running drugs, or planning on attacking the plan, it triggers.

      -Rick
      • I may be in the minority, but I KNOW my BP/heart rate would rise just from fear of the machine not getting it right:
        'What if it flags me, would they do the cavity search? would I miss my connection? would I have to spend a night in a packed jail with real criminals? would I be held until my next bowel movement?' (which they do with pregnant women 'drug mules' that cannot have Xrays)

        And I rather suspect the terrorists that have daily polygraph training sessions would pass with no problems.
    • You're right. The police have become the bad guys now so we're naturally suspicious of them.

      But heres the thing, this is nothing more than a polygraph. And they've already been solidly debunked as junk science if anything.
    • Why do you assume that the people building this system didn't think of that?
    • by Jhan (542783)

      I agree.

      However, this feels more like you being slammed into a chair, and me entering in full SS regalia. Slowly I walk to you, and slap my horse whip against my black-gloved palm.

      Me: Yes... "Mister"... <Insert Your Name> We will soon become very aquainted...

      I suggest that you are a terrorist. Yes?

      Any elevated blood pressure will be seen as a sign of admission. Off with him to the camps.

  • by JonTurner (178845) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:56AM (#15903238) Journal
    Remind anyone else of: "You're in the desert. You see a turtle on its back and it can't flip over. Unless it gets on its feet it will die. But you won't help it. You're going to let it die. Why is that?" (paraphrased.)
  • on top of that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loconut1389 (455297) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:56AM (#15903243)
    ... their statistics are based on actors- who can't reasonably be expected to have genuine responses to those types of questions.

    I bet there are quite a high percentage of people who, just by hooking them up to the polygraph apparatus (which is basically what we're talking about) would have elevated levels and potentially have a panic attack in some percentage of the population.

    I'm betting they wouldn't even require a licensed (or certified, or whatever) polygrapher to run it, further decreasing the accuracy on an already questionable technology.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:56AM (#15903246) Homepage Journal
    If I were a terrorist, I would pretend to be a normal person, this thing won't fly.

    It reminds me of films like Airplane where the scanners stop and beat up the little old grannies but welcome the missile/gun toting libyans through.
  • Desensitized (Score:3, Informative)

    by iknowcss (937215) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:57AM (#15903250) Homepage
    So when this becomes common practice, will you really be suprised when you're asked a string of questions like this?
  • Guantanamo Boom (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:57AM (#15903259) Homepage Journal
    Bush will buy these systems that let one in six lying terrorists through, while sending one in twelve random innocents to Guantanamo. Instead of spending a mere $6M (2/1000ths of 1% of the Iraq War bill to date) on explosives detection systems [nwsource.com].
  • Greeeatt... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sefert (723060) on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:58AM (#15903265)
    Now my fear of flying is going to get me a cavity search. Life is just coming up roses for me...
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday August 14, 2006 @11:59AM (#15903270) Journal

    ...the idea is utterly worthless, since if you're a polished and practiced enough liar, your bodily functions are not going to change significantly, because you believe every word you're speaking. And plenty of people are going to be nervous at the types of questions, the thought that they might be lying when asked if they've used drugs or something similar when they remember the pot they smoked in college, and generally be ramped up anyway from waiting around to pass through security. It's the same process that causes your blood pressure to be higher in the doctor's office than it is when you take it at home.

    • ...the idea is utterly worthless, since if you're a polished and practiced enough liar, your bodily functions are not going to change significantly, because you believe every word you're speaking.

      I don't think they send the polished, intelligent, cool-under-pressure terrorists to blow themselves up. Generally, they send the expendable, naive, "777 virgins when I die" terrorists.

      In any case, why do so many people equate "not perfect" with "utterly worthless"? If you're waiting for a perfect system, it'

      • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday August 14, 2006 @01:09PM (#15903849) Journal

        In any case, why do so many people equate "not perfect" with "utterly worthless"? If you're waiting for a perfect system, it's never going to happen.

        It has nothing to do with perfection. It has to do with the fact that is some panacea the government had devised to make the public think they are going to be safer, when in fact it won't do anything other than get easily flustered people pulled out of line and harassed while unperturbed folks and the routine flyers will simply glide on through.

        And don't kid yourself; the terrorists are not guys they're pulling off the street, strapping bombs to, and trying to plant on planes. The 9/11 bunch practiced, rehearsed, and studied the whole system, so they new when and where and how to defeat security. I doubt they would have betrayed much as they passed through this system, because for them it had become routine. That's the easiest way to defeat the lie detector and its ilk -- make something so utterly common, so normal, say an untruth so many times that you begin to believe it, that under no circumstances do you give it a second thought.

        • It has nothing to do with perfection. It has to do with the fact that is some panacea the government had devised to make the public think they are going to be safer, when in fact it won't do anything other than get easily flustered people pulled out of line and harassed while unperturbed folks and the routine flyers will simply glide on through.

          Right. The Israelis apparently have had a lot of success looking for those "unperturbed" terrorists. Turns out that people who are going to die in a short while

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:00PM (#15903284)
    TOtally unnecessary, as in addition to the bio machine, you need a trained interrogator, who could just as easily notice sweating, blushing, trembling, and in addition will notice a bunch of other facial and body language clues that the machine cant.

    If you've ever seen a 6-foot tall crew cut tough as nails El Al employee ask you about your luggage, you know what I mean. They'll paw thru yuour luggage, pull out an orange, shove it one half inch from your nose and ask: "AND *WHAT* is *THIS*!??"

    • Actually I think simply hiring people to do El-Al style interogations would help airline security substantially. Instead of asking "Did you pack your bags yourself" El Al asks only open ended questions and a lot of questions they know the answer to. So it's, "Why are you flying to Israel" "Who are you flying with" "Where did you buy your ticket" "Who packed your luggage". They also ask follow up questions. Their security is already miles ahead of everyone else, I'm not sure why they would want to rely on an
    • Actually the people doing the luggage inspection aren't El Al employees, and the majority of them are young girls.
      Normally I just go right through (I fly a lot and they know who you are before you even set foot in the airport), but one time (not in band camp) this nervous security girl gave me a real grilling, so I asked her if she was new in the job.
      She got very upset, they don't like it when you ask them the questions.
  • by eliot1785 (987810) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:01PM (#15903287)
    So people who weren't actually terrorists managed to generate an 85% positive rate? That would suggest that this can be easily triggered by overall nervousness (or in this case, people inducing nervousness in themselves as part of the role-playing). What is the difference between the mindset of "I need to be nervous so that I will act like a terrorist in accordance with my role" and "Oh my god, why does this TSA official think I'm a terrorist"? It's not real clear to me.

    A real lie-detector test (like the polygraph) ought to be able to tell the difference between nervousness and an actual sense of having told a lie. Otherwise this is worthless.
    • A real lie-detector test (like the polygraph) ought to be able to tell the difference between nervousness and an actual sense of having told a lie. Otherwise this is worthless.

      Insightful?

      This thing:

      The Wall Street Journal has this story about a biometric airport security system which uses biometric responses -- blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels

      Polygraph:

      A polygraph (commonly and inaccurately referred to as a "lie detector") is a device which measures and records several physiological variables such as

  • "role-acting"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:01PM (#15903288)
    Doesn't catching "role-acting" terrorists also imply that these people were bad actors?
    • Doesn't catching "role-acting" terrorists also imply that these people were bad actors?

      Worse: will David Hasselhoff now be labelled a terrorist every time he flies?

  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:01PM (#15903293) Homepage
    If you see anyone acting suspiciously, security can walk up to them and ask

    "terroristsayswhat?"

    most of them will reply

    "what?"

    proving that they are a terrorist.

    Bingo! A solution that's just as reliable as a lie detector test...
  • by 10sball (80009) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:02PM (#15903296) Homepage
    then they accuse me of having high blood pressure?

    there's no way out of this one, is there?
  • by Grendol (583881) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:04PM (#15903316)
    Your late getting to the airport on a hot Atlanta day, sweaty and frazzled, you just took your heart medication and blood pressure drugs, and this machine flags you as being suspicious.

    AARP is going to have something new to talk about soon if this is the way things are going.

    Considering Sen. Ted Kennedy supposedly made it on a 'no fly list' , all I can quip is 'just think of the possibilities'.

  • by krell (896769)
    "Did you poison the quadrotriticale?"
  • Oscar Wilde (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:05PM (#15903323) Homepage
    I can just imagine him in today's society:

    I have nothing to declare except my genius

    Security! We have a terrorist mastermind in our midst! Get him!
  • Polygraph Tests? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spyinnzus (923219) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:07PM (#15903335)
    This looks a whole lot like a polygraph test, which has been considered in court an unnecessary breach of privacy. You can't use them for evidence and you can't use them for interviews (unless you're the FBI). So what gives us the legal precedent to use them on travelers?
    • Re:Polygraph Tests? (Score:5, Informative)

      by kansas1051 (720008) on Monday August 14, 2006 @01:27PM (#15903997)

      Polygraphs aren't admissible in U.S. courts because they aren't considered reliable evidence of anything and not for any reasons related to privacy. As others have pointed out, there are many ways to game polygraph machines to achieve any desired result. Based on this fact, polygraphs fail the Frye and Daubert tests normally employed by courts to determine if scientific evidence can be admitted.

      Regarding your second point, the government doesn't need any legal precedent to require you to take a polygraph before boarding an airline. Job applicants at the FBI and CIA are all forced to take polygraphs as part of the application process, even though polygraphs are junk science. As we have no right to travel by air, the government can impossible any conditions it wishes on air travel provided the restrictions are rationally related to safety.

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:14PM (#15903383) Journal
    Until the Diebold version comes out.
  • If terrorists are going to invest many years and gobs of money into planning their plots and they are thorougly devoted to their cause... isn't it likely that they would overcome this method by learning to act / control themselves under pressure? If 15% of ordinary people who are just getting paid to pretend they are terrorists can get through, I'd hate to see the percentage of real-terrorists-willing-to-blow-themselves-up-and - kill-many-innocent-people-because-they-think-it's- what-their-god-wants could g
  • ...85% of role-players were able to convince this thing that they were terrorists despite the fact that they weren't? And this is newsworthy? The I Ching is more reliable. Except in this case I'm not exaggerating. The I Ching really is more reliable.
  • With proper biofeedback training, you can learn to control your own biometric responses (heart rate, galvanic skin response, etc). If anything like this were put into place, the terrorists would simply resort to that kind of training.
  • by rickkas7 (983760) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:16PM (#15903405)
    From the Article: Within a year, he predicts, such technology will be able to tell whether someone's "blood pressure or heart rate is significantly higher than the last 10 people" who entered an airport. What use is blood pressure for detecting terrorists? 16 % of people in the United States have undiagnosed hypertension [stfm.org]. I suppose it might make for good public health screening, but I'm thinking that's a pretty bad way to detect terrorists, except perhaps those who like to binge on fast food and don't exercise...
    • I suppose it might make for good public health screening

      This is a point heavily in the system's favour! I think you'd save more lives by randomly diagnosing people with hypertension in the airport than by preventing terrorist attacks. Perhaps we should judge the system based on these merits instead? Free blood pressure test with every flight!


  • In the latest Israeli trial, the system caught 85% of the role-acting terrorists


    Finally, we have a way to identify people pretending to be terrorists! Excellent!

    Honestly, how do you possibly test this? A terrorist that isn't nervous in the slightest will breeze right through, while anybody with social anxiety disorder, or people with phobias of authority figures, will be rounded up as "potential threats". Give me a break.
  • It's also pretty good at picking out replicants [imdb.com] (androids) from humans.
  • A system that incorrectly identifies 8% of respondents as terrorists is a useless system. Some people freak out when accused of something even if they didn't do it. Given that tens of thousands of people pass through an airport in a regular day it means you're meant to detain and disrupt hundreds of travellers. Given that the average number of terrorists passing through an airport is diminishingly small, this system would be a total waste of time and money.

    If the intent is to scare would be terrorists, I

  • Measuring pulse, bp, and sweat by galvanic response no dount. Lie detectors dont work. They're like the war on drugs. We want to believe it works, but in the end it's a big waste of money and it hurts innocent people for no real result.
  • "Are you smuggling drugs?" If I was working the ticket counter, I'd ask couples "Do you cheat on your spouse?" That would provoke a much more interesting response.
  • A machine measured biometric responses -- blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels -- that then were analyzed by software

    I can forsee alot of innocent passengers with anxiety disorders getting screwed.
  • trial by ordeal [wikipedia.org]? Or having the airline boarding agent stare into the eyes of every brownish-skinned male aged 15-30 and denying boarding to the ones with shifty eyes? Or seeing which passengers little Fido (he's so intuitive, he can just sense these things) growls at?

    It's obscene that something like this is even being considered. This is nothing but a polygraph test... a rush-job polygraph test conducted under poor conditions.

    Even on the face of it--and one can be sure that these company's tests and reporte
  • Hmmmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SengirV (203400) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:27PM (#15903486)
    I don't know about anyone else, but wheneve I fly my blood preasure goes WAY up, I sweat a lot more and I am usually VERY pissed because of the inefficiency EVERYWHERE. I'm sure I'd get flagged every time. This is total BS. I know lots of people who do the same thing, whether it's the stress fo flying, running late, flight delays, etc... I dont' see this working.

    systems that identify liquids in carry-ons, systems that detect material on clothing that are common in bomb making, etc... are MUCH better options.

    Putting people in a two hour long queue to go thru this system and then flagging them for being upset, sweating, etc... is just plain idiotic.
  • Even is we're only talking a max accuracy of 75%, the impact on potential terrorists will be much higher. One more hurdle for them to jump. I wonder if they bothered to test this on subjects under the influence of depressants? I'veh eard it isn't unusual for terrorists to take drugs to get in the correct state of mind.
  • Anybody remember SARS? No? Yeah, once upon a time it's all travelers to-and-from Asia talked about, but it's a little passe' now... anyway, in the Shanghai International Airport they had (this was in '02; I have no idea what they're doing now, if anything, to "detect" passengers who have/may have SARS) what appeared to be an infrared camera pointed at the line they herded passengers through ( everyone had to have their "SARS test", and their "checked; OK" card, to proceed) -- I presume (couldn't get an
  • While the percentages look good, the actual numbers are much different. Let's suppose for every 100 people, 1 is a criminal / terrorist/smuggler. Using this,

    85% catch rate - You'll have 1 real person caught 85% of the time - =.85
    8 % false positives - 8 innocents pulled aside per 100 = 8
    Total checked - 8.85

    Total id for further review = 8.85 of with on average .85 will be a terrorist / criminal - 8.85 - .85/8.9 = 90% of the people stopped will be innocent - so the guard is faced with the sisituation where h
  • 85% of people pretending to be terrorists were identified as threats?

    Sounds like an 85% false positive rate to me...

  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) on Monday August 14, 2006 @12:59PM (#15903765) Homepage Journal
    It is truly bizarre that someone who is smuggling drugs is grouped in with terrorists as having a "hostile intent". True, both are breaking laws, but drug smugglers have a motive for being non-hostile - they don't want to get caught. They just want to get from point A to point B without interference. Which, paradoxically, gives them the same motive as the TSA.

    Hmmmm...that gives me an idea. Drug smugglers could be useful allies in the war on terror. I suggest a new TSA policy. Let one dealer through on each flight. Grant him the right to carry, say, 5 kilos of drugs exempt from the law. Let him also carry a gun - uh, no - REQUIRE that he carry a gun as part of the deal. You can be sure he will not let a plane get highjacked without a fight. And a terrorist organization would think twice about highjacking a plane - even if they could overpower the dealer - knowing that the Medellin or some other international drug cartel would then be out for revenge.
    Not only would flights be safer, but this is a very profitable policy for the TSA; they save the cost of hiring air marshalls, and the dealer would pay a bunch of money for the privilege.

    What the heck - let's take this idea to its logical conclusion. Let the cartels run their own flights. I'd feel safer on Medellin airlines that I do on American or United, etc. ( I'll bet that they could also put the fun back in flying: "Would you like some coffee, senor? Cocaine? Hashish?" )
  • Where are they going to get people that speak all the languages of every traveler? How to question an old lady from India (or anywhere else), that doesn't speak anything but the local dialect?
  • Just what we need, a polygraph by another name.

    The polygraph's accuracy is highly questionable even in the hands of an operator with intensive training and years of experiance. Now we're supposed to believe it will work in the setting of an airport when operated by people who are there because nobody but the TSA was stupid enough to give them a security related job?

    If the MARKETING literature itself admits to 8% false positive and 15% false nagative, I have to wonder if the real world figures will appro

  • This technology is of course just a stepping stone, a prelude to the real technology that is on the horizon.

    Being developed, even as we speak, is a device that will pick up the electrical signals emitted by your cerebrum and frontal lobal regions of the brains. Thse devices will employ electroencephalography methodology and electroencephalogram tests from a distance to analyze the brains electrical signals. These signals will be fed into a statistical probability matrix, and your present, future desires

  • Device is useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday August 14, 2006 @01:24PM (#15903960) Homepage

    Assuming the marketing literature is right about the detection rates, that alone renders the device useless. Consider this: for every terrorist there are at least a thousand legitimate travellers in any given airport. At an 8% false-positive rate, you'll incorrectly tag 80 innocent travellers during screening. Assume you tag the terrorist as well. You've now got a group of 81 people, 80 of whom are innocent. What's the public reaction going to be when, after the delays and the hassles to all those people, it turns out that 98.77% of the time your "detector" is wrong? And this is conservative, assuming a low number of travellers and a high percentage of terrorists. It wouldn't suprise me if a major airport like Heathrow handled several tens of thousands of travellers every day and only saw any terrorists at all on one day a month if that often.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Monday August 14, 2006 @01:39PM (#15904073) Homepage
    OK, let's run through the numbers,

    "In the latest Israeli trial, the system caught 85% of the role-acting terrorists, meaning that 15% got through, and incorrectly identified 8% of innocent"

    Assume say 2,020 people. 20 are terrorists.

    The machine will identify .08 * 2000 plus 20*.85 = 177 people called terrorist by the machine Of those only 17 are really terrorists (less than 10%), the rest are innocent. 90% wrong decisions

    Of the people called 1843 "innocent" by the machine, 6 would real be terrorists. Less than 1% wrong decision there, but even 6 are 6 too many.

    This machine looks to do nothing but provide a false sense of security, while causing MAJOR trouble for a huge number of innocent people.

    This is basically just a Lie detector, used for a VERY bad methodology. Lie detectors ARE usefull, if used correctly. Specifically you use them to confirm knowledge, not motive.

    I.E. "Lie detectors" can NOT detect lies said by the suspect, they detect Nervousness. The proper way to use them is simple. Say you have a woman killed when someone cut her throat. You take suspect, before he has seen the body, or heard anything about her murder and you ask him:

    1 "Did you blow up the victim?"

    2 "Did you cut the victim's throat?"

    3 "Did you shoot the victim?"

    4 "Did you run the victim over in a car?"

    If the man is innocent, he will be no more nervous on question #2 than the other questions. If he is guilty, chances are question #2 will cause a HUGE jump in nervousness, as compared to the other questions.

    Even this is not fool proof (if the suspect happens to be afraid of knives/was cut by a mugger, bad results are likely), but it is certainly a lot more helpfull than the standard practice.

  • Swipping Passport? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by olddotter (638430) on Monday August 14, 2006 @01:48PM (#15904164) Homepage
    Passengers swip their passport into the machine. First off, I seem to remember that all of the 9/11 planes were on domestic flights and therefore people wouldn't have their passports.

    Secondly there was just recent concern about ease of duplication of RFID passport data. I hope no one decides to put this technology in use until alot of problems are worked out.

    Just how accurate is "role acting" terrorists? An 8% false positive rate is almost 1 of every 12 people. Perhaps a role of a twelve sided die would work as well.

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