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    DHS Releases Privacy Impact Assessment on FAST/Passive Methods for Precision Behavioral Screening

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Office has released a privacy impact assessment, “Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST)/Passive Methods for Precision Behavioral Screening, DHS/S&T/PIA-012(a)” (DHS pdf; archive pdf); this is an update to a Privacy Impact Assessment (pdf) released in 2008. FAST, which I wrote about four years ago, seeks to divine an individual’s criminal or benign intent from a bio scan, and members of Congress have raised privacy questions concerning the technology.

    According to DHS, “FAST seeks to improve the screening process at transportation and other critical checkpoints by developing physiological and behavior-based screening techniques that will provide additional indicators to screeners to enable them to make more informed decisions. FAST is not intended to provide ―probable cause for law enforcement processes, nor would the technology replace or pre-empt the decisions of human screeners.”

    Now, according to the new PIA:

    The FAST research is adding a new type of research, the Passive Methods for Precision Behavioral Screening (hereinafter FAST/Passive). The purpose of the FAST/Passive study is to build upon existing FAST research using volunteers and increase the performance of FAST primary screening procedures and to increase the ability to differentiate malintent through the inclusion of passive stimuli. The aim of the FAST/Passive study is to devise passive stimuli that will evoke malintent cues and incorporate these stimuli into the FAST screening project. […]

    The overall FAST project, including the FAST/Passive research seeks to: (1) identify and validate indicators of malintent; (2) develop a prototype incorporating sensors that measure these indicators; (3) identify and test appropriate stimuli; and (4) test the performance of the prototype using fully-informed and consenting volunteers. During the experimental research, the volunteer participant (as notified during the informed consent process) may be explicitly instructed to carry out a disruptive act, so that the researchers and the participant (but not the experimental screeners) already know that the participant has malcontent. […]

    The current FAST project is designed to analyze specific psychophysiological signals and behavioral attributes, e.g., respiration, cardiovascular response, eye movement, thermal measures, and gross body movement of a screened individual – the project does not use personally identifiable information (PII). The stimuli thus far has been verbal interactions with security personnel. The goal of the FAST/Passive study is to increase the performance of FAST primary screening procedures and to increase the ability to differentiate malintent through the inclusion of passive stimuli. The working definition of passive stimulation is the activation by the environment of an individual’s mental representations of malintent and associated behavioral and physiological responses, without the need for an active conversant response by the individual.

    The one change in this study is the type of stimuli being used to induce a response from research subjects. In addition to verbal stimuli, research may explore the identification and effectiveness of additional passive stimuli, which include audio, visual, or tactile stimuli.

    Once FAST/Passive is validated in a laboratory setting, researchers may conduct tests of FAST/Passive in limited operational settings. The operational tests enable researchers to evaluate project functions under operational conditions, and determine potential concepts for operational needs. The operational test settings will be in public places like special events, mass transit portals and border crossings but will be closed to the public and only involve volunteer participants. The volunteer participants for FAST testing are approached through the operational settings, like employees at an arena, and offered the option to volunteer with full-informed consent.

    Read the full privacy impact assessment (pdf) for more information.

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