The WSJ reports today that the Dept. of Homeland Security has begun testing biometric devices designed to weed out airplane passengers with “hostile intent”. The particular metrics are secret, of course, but they seem to be surprisingly crude. (They don’t go much beyond measuring your blood pressure and pulse in response to questions. In other words, they are a crude kind of lie-detector.) Nevertheless, this does make me wonder about when fMRI machines will become tools of security. How long before the metal detector is replaced by a “hostile intent detector”?
At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, Tenn. this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones.
With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses — blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels — that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.
The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have “hostile intent.” In effect, the screening system attempts to mechanize Israel’s vaunted airport-security process by using algorithms, artificial-intelligence software and polygraph principles.