The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun field testing new technology designed to identify people who intend to commit a terrorist act.
Nature reported that the DHS has been conducting tests of Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) in the past few months at an undisclosed location in the northeast.
The technology uses remote sensors to measure physiological properties, such as heart rate and eye movement, which can be used to infer a person’s current mindset.
According to a Privacy Impact Assessment (PDF) released by the DHS in 2008, the technology is intended to measure a person’s malintent — the intent to cause harm.
“Behavioral scientists hypothesize that someone with malintent may act strangely, show mannerisms out of the norm, or experience extreme physiological reactions based on the extent, time, and consequences of the event,” the report stated. “The FAST technology design capitalizes on these indicators to identify individuals exhibiting characteristics associated with malintent.”
The DHS has claimed accuracy rates of around 70 percent, but some scientists have questioned the results.
“Even having an iris scan or fingerprint read at immigration is enough to raise the heart rate of most legitimate travellers,” Tom Ormerod, a psychologist in the Investigative Expertise Unit at Lancaster University, told Nature.
John Verrico, a spokesman for the DHS, said he could not comment on the performance of FAST because the results were still being analyzed and that additional tests would continue to be conducted.
Eric W. Dolan
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