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    USA Today: TSA lends its eyes to Bowl Sunday

    Super Bowl XLIII will be the first time that federal behavior-detection agents will be used at a major event, reports USA Today.

    At the Tampa Police request, the TSA is sending dozens of its behavior officers to Tampa to watch spectators entering 75,000-seat Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, said Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. […]

    Behavior observation is used daily by 2,600 specially trained TSA officers at more than 160 airports. Officers look for obvious signs of nervousness or other behavioral flags, such as sweating, avoiding eye contact or talking evasively.

    There are a lot of privacy and civil liberty questions surrounding behavior detection programs. There are any number of innocent reasons why an individual would be nervous or agitated at an airport or the Super Bowl. Wouldn’t you presume nervousness from someone who spent that much money and time to go to the Super Bowl to watch his or her team play?

    What would the error rate of this technology be? How many false positives leading to the harassment of innocent people and the diversion of investigators’ attention and resources from actual criminals?

    Questions about behavior detection programs aren’t just coming from privacy advocates. In October, the National Research Council released a report, “Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment,” which was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation. The authors held a panel discussion on the report’s findings. 

    One important point from the panel discussion: Any programs attempting to assess an individual’s state of mind is considered suspect. Such behavior detection programs should be a tool for further investigation, but not determinative of intent because there is a high probability of false positives.

    Behavior detection programs are proliferating, and detection technology is being tested in the US and abroad. In September, USA Today discussed new behavior detection technology being developed by the Department of Homeland Security; it seeks to divine an individual’s criminal or benign intent from a bio scan. Also that month, New York Times reported on a case in India concerning brain scan technology believed to identify when an individual is lying. The brain scan evidence was used to convict a woman accused of murdering her fiance.

    I have blogged about the European Union testing in-flight video surveillance to detect criminal intent. Previously, I wrote an op-ed (pdf) in The Tennessean about face recognition systems being used in schools. I explained that the algorithms to automatically detect and identify individuals were complex and still error-prone.

    A 2007 large-scale face recognition scientific study (pdf) found that, during the day, the error rate of the technology was about 40 percent. At night, the error rate was 80 to 90 percent.

    One Response to “USA Today: TSA lends its eyes to Bowl Sunday”

    1. Orwellian Super Bowl? « Cornell Insider Says:

      […] and that its use at a stadium sets an alarming precedent for police inquiries,” and the blog has brought the situation into question due to the trouble and inconvenience it brings to innocent […]