Minority Report | Homeland Security Getting in the Mind Reading Business

Homeland Security testing mind-reading terrorist ‘pre-crime’ detectors

Darlene Storm|ComputerWorld

The movie "Minority Report" depicted a future where crime was prevented before its occurance. Has this science fiction lent itself to modern day?

Many times, technologies from popular science fiction movies have later blended with real science and technology to become reality. Deployment of just such surveillance technology, somewhere between mind-reading machines and a “pre-crime” program, is currently being tested against real life to remotely detect terrorists or assassins, to find people with malicious intentions.

So whether someone cut you off in traffic or you had a spat with your significant other, if you are having adrenaline-driven aggressive thoughts and you are in northeastern USA, you might quickly take a chill pill because that’s where terrorist “pre-crime” detectors are being tested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

According to Nature magazine, in an undisclosed location in the northeast, Homeland Security has been testing its Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) program which is designed to ‘sense’ and spot people who intend to commit a terrorist act. Critics of FAST have compared the system to the ‘pre-crime’ concept that was made famous in the film Minority Report. FAST technology uses remote sensors to detect when a person experiences irregular physiological properties like increased heart rate and darting eye movements that are supposedly associated with malicious intent.

FAST merges technology with behavioral science [PDF] and has been in development since 2008. According to the DHS privacy impact document, there are five remote sensors that can measure heart and respiration rates, and remote eye trackers that can measure pupils, position and gaze of eyes. There are also thermal cameras as well as audio to analyze pitch changes in human voices. High resolution video is used to analyze facial expressions and body movement. “Other sensor types such as pheromones detection are also under consideration.” Previous FAST testing involved people passing through the system while role-playing that they would carry out a “disruptive act.”

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