News Stories

Detecting Crimes BEFORE They Happen

If we could do this, we would be faced with the necessity of arresting and incarcerating technically "innocent" people, which would upend our entire constitution and body of laws, in the same way that torturing suspects at Guantanamo has.

This may be a possibility in the future. A secret Homeland Security document indicates that a controversial program designed to predict whether a person will commit a crime is already being tested on some members of the public. The program works on using algorithms (mathematical formulas), that include ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rates, to "detect cues indicative of mal-intent."

On CNet, Declan McCullagh quotes government counsel Ginger McCall as saying, "If it were deployed against the public, it would be very problematic."

He quotes other excerpts from an internal DHS document obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. In one of them, McCullagh quotes FAST ("Future Attribute Screening Technology Program") manager Robert Middleton Jr. as saying that FAST "sensors will non-intrusively collect video images, audio recordings, and psychophysiological measurements from employees."

He quotes deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Peter Boogaard as saying, "The department's Science and Technology Directorate has conducted preliminary research in operational settings to determine the feasibility of using non-invasive physiological and behavioral sensor technology and observational techniques to detect signs of stress, which are often associated with intent to do harm. The FAST program is only in the preliminary stages of research and there are no plans for acquiring or deploying this type of technology at this time."

Meanwhile, your streetlights may be watching you.

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