Forget Your “Junk”—The TSA Wants to Feel Up Your Mind

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

All,

In its never-ending search to be as intrusive as it can possibly arrange, it seems that the TSA has hit on a way to probe your mind.

Good luck on that one.  The software is unproven, the algorithms unreliable, but that won’t stop them.  Remember, to this crowd, you are guilty until proven innocent, and that means that even the slightest evidence, regardless of how dodgy and unreliable, means you’re in a world of trouble.

Scott

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Forget Your “Junk”—The TSA Wants to Feel Up Your Mind

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/tsa-spot-scan-paul-ekman

Stranded travelers could face a new homeland security toy this week. On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it’s begun “testing new software” on select airport body-scanning machines in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Washington DC. The new imaging technology “auto-detects” suspicious material, boosting privacy by presenting potential threats on a generic human outline rather than a passenger-specific image. “If no potential threat items are detected, an “OK” will appear on the monitor,” notes the TSA press release.

IF YOU’RE UNHAPPY with the choice between having the Transportation Security Administration “porno-scanning” you or touching your junk, this might also freak you out: The TSA is trying to read your mind. Since June 2003, it’s been monitoring travelers’ facial expressions and body language for signs that they might be hiding something. As of March 2010, the TSA’s Screening Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) program had 3,000 “behavior detection officers” in more than 150 airports. Their job is to strike up conversations with passengers at security checkpoints, checking for what one TSA official describes as “behaviors that show you’re trying to get away with something you shouldn’t be doing.” People who don’t display “normal airport behavior” may be stopped for questioning.

SPOT is based largely on the work of Paul Ekman, a behavioral scientist who has spent his career identifying “microexpressions”—twitches lasting between one-fifteenth and one-twenty-fifth of a second that reveal intentionally concealed emotions. Ekman’s methods have been used by the animators of Toy Story and Shrek and celebrated by Malcolm Gladwell, and they inspired the Fox TV series Lie To Me, whose main character is a human lie detector who thrives on confrontations with psychopaths and murderers. That’s a far cry from Ekman himself, an unassuming 77-year-old who makes no claims of infallibility. “I’m never absolutely certain,” he says, sitting in his San Francisco loft. “I can’t tell you what triggers an emotion. I can only tell you to recognize an emotion even when someone doesn’t want you to recognize it.” Nonetheless, he says that had he been stationed at an airport security checkpoint on the morning of September 11, 2001, he probably could have plucked Mohamed Atta out of a crowd.

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