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    CNN: Will airports screen for body signals?

    CNN reports that the Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with the use of “Future Attribute Screening Technology” (FAST), which I discussed last year.

    Instead of focusing on whether you have hidden explosives or whether you’re carrying a weapon, sensors and cameras located at security checkpoints would measure the natural signals coming from your body — your heart rate, breathing, eye movement, body temperature and fidgeting.

    Those physiological signs, measured together, will indicate whether you might have the desire or intent to do harm, project manager Robert Burns said. […]

    FAST researchers are encouraged by the results so far. One of the researchers, Daniel Martin, says as each succeeding study becomes more real, the program is “doing significantly better than chance.”

    Critics say that is not good enough.

    “I haven’t seen any research that shows that those measures from the autonomic nervous system … measuring blood pressure, measuring breathing, measuring heat on the face, are at all related to intent,” said Stephen Fienberg, professor of statistics and social sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

    Fienberg, who participated in a government study critical of the use of polygraphs, said he worries that a lot of money is being spent on a program that in the end will show “the emperor has no clothes.”

    Civil liberties groups maintain this screening technology is an invasion of privacy.

    The DHS Privacy Office also released a Privacy Impact Assessment (pdf) on FAST last year, stating:

    Before FAST is transitioned from a research effort to pilot or full deployment in operational environments, the operational component acquiring the technology, with support from S&T, will address the following privacy issues: (1) the legal assessment at Federal, State, and local levels regarding collecting each type of data from each sensor (and combinations of sensors) in an operational setting versus in a research setting with volunteer participants who have consented to the collection; (2) redress options for individuals being screened using the FAST technologies; and (3) data retention limits related to the data collected through FAST technologies.

    It would be nice to know if these three privacy issues have been addressed and how.

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