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IBM Patenting Airport Profiling Technology

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-we-can-all-be-potential-terrorists dept.

Patents 129

An anonymous reader writes "InformationWeek's Wolfe's Den reports that IBM has filed a dozen applications to patent a sophisticated airport security system which supports passive software-based profiling of potentially dangerous passengers off of pre-programmed rules. The setup uses a collection of sensors — video, motion, biometric and even olfactory — in terminals and around the airport perimeter, to supply raw data. 'These patents are built on the inference engine, which [analyzes sensor data and] has the ability to calculate very large data sets in real time,' says co-inventor Roger Angell. A small grid of networked computers delivers the necessary processing power. Two applications go one better than Israeli-style security, analyzing furtive glances to detect, according to the title of the patent application, 'Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements,' as well as measuring respiratory patterns."

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Patents (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820004)

The new whipping boy that SCO has fallen off the narrow /. radar. Hoo-freaking-ray!!!

Re:Patents (2, Funny)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820068)

SCO? Didnt they go bankrupt or something?
Talk about a company that sold fear....

Nigger Joke Nigger Joke NIgger Joke! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820200)

Hey, do you know what PONTIAC stands for? It's easy! Poor Old Nigger Thinks It's A Cadillac! Even a dune coon knows that!

Easier way to profile (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820400)

Here's an easier way to secure the air:

if (isMuslim) {

Second Post (3, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820042)


Two applications go one better than Israeli-style security, analyzing furtive glances to detect, according to the title of the patent application, 'Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements,'

Ever vigilant against the dog with the shifty eyes. []

Re:Second Post (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823020)

So, to have fun and really 'skew' the system's profiles...we should all be doing "Silly Walks" [] , wearing shades at all times....panting, and I'm not sure right now what to try to 'smell' like....

Re:Second Post (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823946)

analyzing furtive glances to detect, according to the title of the patent application, 'Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements,' as well as measuring respiratory patterns

Just great!
Now they can profile people that are deathly afraid of flying (like my brother) and further traumatize them, profiling them as terrorists and treating them as such.

Why don't they just stick to the old reliable method of profiling: Young male non US citizen, buying ticket with cash, one way to America, NO LUGGAGE, originating in a terrorist hot-bed country.

This method is clearly a no-brainer and doesn't require any expensive security theater
Of course, even that method didn't work last time, what sane person would think this new method will

Re:Second Post (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824314)

Because your method wouldnt cost as much.
Welcome to United States of Corporate America.

This sucks (2, Interesting)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820064)

The need for this just appalls me. Hate it. It's amazing what a small group of "dedicated" people can do with a few airplanes.

I feel horribly for the loss of life, but I can't imagine those terrorists ever expected it to get this far.


Re:This sucks (1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820174)

The need for this just appalls me. Hate it. It's amazing what a small group of "dedicated" people can do with a few airplanes.

Smell the coffee. There isn't any need for it.

Even if there were, this isn't the solution. This has boondoggle written all over it.

Re:This sucks (1, Flamebait)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820350)

While I agree with you, apparently a lot of people out there are still scared to death. It doesn't matter that you can hit them with facts and statistics until you're blue in the face, they apparently "need" for the government to look like it's doing something to solve the issue.

That's why I say it's a need.

The sheep are still scared, over something that happened almost 10 years ago.


Re:This sucks (5, Funny)

shabtai87 (1715592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820434)

Yes of course, because no one tried to blow up a plane in the past month or so.... nobody ever gets past security with explosives and needs to be stopped by on board passengers ever....

Re:This sucks (2, Informative)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820508)

Haha, exactly! Really? No need? Yea, sure. there is no need for extensive screening if you do not care about safety. Sure. You're absolutely right. You don't NEED to live. The rest of us will get by just fine.

The fact that there are still attempts for people to bring explosives and other weapons on airplanes and the fact that some do make it on should be reason that we need to have screening. The fact that there have been no actual deaths is just testement to the fact that the screening is WORKING.

Also, don't you think that if someone was willing to kill people using an airplane and it was so successful that, if given the chance, they would do it again in a heartbeat?

The system works? (3, Informative)

wsanders (114993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820712)

Maybe the system works? When was the last time anyone heard of an attack on an El Al airplane?

And that the latest perp succeeded only in catching his pants on fire, points to some success. If there were no three-ounce rule, or no even haphazard searches, he wouldn't have bothered with the explosive underwear and instead just packed some C4 in his backpack.

Re:The system works? (2, Insightful)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820796)

I don't think you're arguing with me, but just to be clear:

I do think the system right now works, but it can always work better. I firmly believe that things can always be made to work better.

That holds true for terrorist too. They can always come up with better and better ways to hide things. The thing is there is very little they can do about people getting nervous about their impending death as they prepair to blow themselves up. It's a great place to try and pick out people from the crowd and we're doing a damn good job, but there is always room for improvement.

Re:The system works? (1)

aarenz (1009365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821262)

I feel sorry for the people that are already deathly afraid of flying since they will be the ones taken aside and questioned and further searched before getting on the plane. It will surely reduce air travel and thus reduce the number of people at risk.

I think random searches will be about as effective as what is done today. Security checkpoints are just a warm fuzzy for people traveling. I could still get guns onto an airplane if there was enough motivation to do so. The attacks from long ago now could be completed the same way because the guns came from the tarmack. Smuggled in in some other items that were to be shipped.

Spend the money on tracking people down before they get to the airport. That is where we can stop terrorists. If someone is caught at the airport checkpoint it will cause as much scare as them setting something off on the plane.

Re:The system works? (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821300)

but it can always work better.

I agree, but we need to be careful about how we define "better". Security specialists will tend to define "better" as "more secure", no matter what happens to convenience or civil liberties. Passengers are more likely to consider "better" to be "more convenient", although they will want security to be adequate. Livertarians are likely to consider "better" to be "more liberty" or "more equality", with less regard for convenience or security. "Better" might be a case of finding a balance between conflicting interests that is more acceptable to the population as a whole, but in general it will be improving one or more criteria without significant detriment to the others.

The issue with profiling is what happens to the innocent that unfortunately match a profile. They are likely to be significantly inconvenienced, and the more we trust the profiling the worse it is likely to get for the false positives. The usual tendency of civilisation is to spread risk more evenly (eg, insurance) as well as reducing it. Unless it is extraordinarily well implemented, profiling goes against that trend, making things better for the majority but making things very much worse for an unlucky few.

Re:The system works? (2, Insightful)

Gravitron 5000 (1621683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821562)

Livertarians are likely to consider "better" to be ...

... with onions.

Re:The system works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822732)

No, it's not that. Simply, there isn't so many threads to the security as your government would like you to think.

Seriously... 'they' crushed the planes into the twin towers and then what.. just stopped? What? They were able to pull this shit out only once???
Riiiight.... the security system got so 'good' that nobody will ever be able to hijack a plane and crush it into something. /sarcasm off

Re:The system works? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823818)

Yeah and maybe my magical anti-white-raven crystal works. Because I never saw a white raven in my life!

In other news: Bread causes terrorism! 100% of all terrorists ate bread, in the 24 hours before committing a act of terrorism.

Re:This sucks (0, Flamebait)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821646)

Actually, no one did try to blow up a plane. If they had, they wouldn't have been let on by a CIA agent, and they would have brought enough explosives to do the job. What's happening is that our own government is telling us to be scared so that they can tell us that we should give them more power so they can keep us safe.

Re:This sucks (5, Interesting)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820710)

Security in airports isn't inherently a bad thing, but to quote the internet "ur doin it wrong".

Israel has been dealing for this threat on a much higher level for years. It's not as hassle free a solution as no security, but the wait times are substantially less, and success substantially better than America's Funniest Security Theater.

Thanks to the ./er who I saw this from first(sorry I don't remember who you are).
Israelification of American Airports []

Re:This sucks (1)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821948)

Thanks for sharing that link. My gut reaction is "Israelification" sounds nice but may not be simple to implement by throwing money at the problem.
Air travel in the US is far more complex than in Israel for many reasons. Among them a population which flies far less frequently, and the fact that there's really only one large international airport, and it's nothing like the huge open shopping malls we call airports here in the States and in Europe. In Israel security often comes before all else, which is something Americans would not stand for.

I was reading another article [] just yesterday, where the security consultant was specifically saying that relying on technology (as per TFA) is the wrong way to go, and I agree. Yes there are many interesting things we have been able to teach computers to do, simulating our own senses, but we're far from building something which could surpass the Israeli trained security personnel whom the article so carelessly dismisses.

Re:This sucks (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822152)

Israel has been dealing for this threat on a much higher level for years. It's not as hassle free a solution as no security, but the wait times are substantially less, and success substantially better than America's Funniest Security Theater.

Have you ever actually flown from an Israeli airport? Because I don't know how anyone who has could be claiming they're so wonderful, or imagine for a moment that Americans would put up with an Israeli-style grilling from minimum-wage TSA employees with a chip on their shoulder.

Re:This sucks (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823420)

imagine for a moment that Americans would put up with an Israeli-style grilling from minimum-wage TSA employees with a chip on their shoulder.

That's the root of the problem isn't it? Airport security is sold to the lowest bidder here while Israel is using its well trained military force. If a country that actually needs its military to protect its borders is sparing troops for this, why the hell can't we?

No, the major hurdle would be that this would be slapped with "socialism" because it's during Obama's administration. Nevermind the Department of Homeland Security, which was really Bush's stimulus package.

Re:This sucks (1, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820598)

That's completely fine in my book.

The terrorists can and will do absolutely everything to hurt and destroy the dirty white kuffars, including expending their own lives, and we respond by doing what we do best -- innovating and working hard. Eventually, even their mindless hatred and disregard for their own lives will be utterly crushed by our economic and technological strength, and like the original Zealots before the Romans 2000 years ago, they'll be but a pathetic historical footnote.

Even so, this is an application of the old "broken windows" fallacy. Terrorism isn't good for our economy, even as it fosters innovation (look at Israel's startup culture). It costs valuable money and resources to defend ourselves against these animals.

You blame the wrong people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820600)

Sure, some politically-motivated criminals hijacked some planes and flew them into buildings.

Since then, the real terrorism has been carried out by Americans against each other. Media, government, law enforcement, local politicians -- all jumping on the bandwagon to terrorize their populace and make them easily give away the rights their ancestors FOUGHT AND DIED FOR.

We should not be afraid of terrorists, in fact we should LAUGH AT THEM and openly mock them. (And kill them whenever the chance arises, of course). But those who would give away their liberty for a little temporary security (or worse, for the illusion of security! For "security theatre"!) deserve neither liberty nor security.

Re:This sucks (0, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820656)

The terrorists won when our cowardly politicians did exectly what the terrorists wanted us to do. Haiti should tell you that nature can do far more damage than any terrorist. Terrorism doesn't make flying more dangerous; despite flying's great safety record, there are far more airliner catastrophes cause by weather, human error, and equipment failure.

Security theater does nothing to make you safer, and that's all they have at the airports -- theater. There is no need for this.

US got off easy (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820756)

We still don't jump at every unattended suitcase though one day we will need to. The day when a car parked in the wrong spot becomes an issue. No, we got it easy.

The simple facts are that your more likely to die of natural causes or from a car accident in the US than terrorism. The terrorist just want you to think otherwise and are more than willing to try. So of course we need a computer/software to do this surveillance for us because then we can divorce ourselves from the feeling we are picking on people. Far better to let a computer do it.

Re:This sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821184)

The need for this just appalls me. Hate it. It's amazing what a small group of "dedicated" people can do with a few airplanes.

I feel horribly for the loss of life, but I can't imagine those terrorists ever expected it to get this far.


Osama bin Laden has wet-dreams nightly about the unimaginable success of his plot to use commercial airliners as guided air-to-surface missiles. Hell, I would be laughing too.

Re:This sucks (1)

whovian (107062) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821430)

The need for this just appalls me. Hate it. It's amazing what a small group of "dedicated" people can do with a few airplanes.

Funny, an analogous statement occurs to me when thinking about our federal elected officials.

IBM is perfect! (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821564)

IBM did a great job for Germany in the 1930's and 40's with their control grid. Imagine what they can do for us today!

Re:IBM is perfectly Stupid! (1)

turtleshadow (180842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821778)

Apparently Today's IBM Management is not so perfect. From the 1st article cited

Angell also said that he's no longer with IBM. "I was laid off last year along with thousands of other people," he told me. Angell is currently teaching a computer science course at a community college in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he lives. I was flabbergasted, wondering how Big Blue could let go a guy like this, who obviously has heavy duty data-analysis chops and is behind such seemingly important technology.

Only IBM Management would lay off primary inventors thinking it has enough to carry the idea forward to reality without the inventive father(s).

However the management greed from the 30's and 40's still remains.

Re:This sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821756)

Don't worry, IBM will patent terrorism next and no one will be able to plant bombs without risking a *huge* lawsuit.

Re:This sucks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821980)


You believe the AIRPLANES knocked down the WTC on 9/11?

The buildings were imploded. Just look at WTC 7, which wasn't even hit.

And such "perfect" collapses, like it was engineered (since it was).

And the airplanes weren't hijacked, but hacked, flown into the buildings by remote control.

9/11 was an inside job.

Why ? (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820104)

You cannot have such stupid mechanisms to detect terrorist activity at airports. At best, you can use them to support other mechanisms. Like as an example maybe to reduce the number of people you want people to go under the scanner. I am sure with patents published online, someone can figure out a way to beat the detection. IMHO, at airports we should use scanners to detect drugs/chemicals/weapons etc. Everything else must come before granting visa like performing a thorough background check !!

Re:Why ? (1)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820128)

Yeah, the signal to noise ratio would be through the roof if you just scan everyone.

Re:Why ? (1)

shabtai87 (1715592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820304)

I'm pretty sure they won't shoot you on sight if you look around too suddenly. That said, this is one case where the only truly informative test is a full body scan. If the cold war spy revelations have taught us anything, even background checks can fail. In the SNR formulation, this is the exact situation i would rather have excess false positives than a single missed detection...

Re:Why ? (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820646)

Even if you were the false positive and given an all over body search?

Re:Why ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821630)

Excess false positives is exactly the problem with this type of hare-brained scheme.

You're not a terrorist, so every time they search you, they're wasting time and money that could better be spent on intelligence analysis (find and arrest 'em before they can blow up anything) and emergency preparedness (helps regardless of whether they get through airport security and blow up a plane, blow up a line of people waiting for security theater screenings, or heck, something unrelated like blowing up a water treatment plant. It also helps for natural disasters which will never be prevented by "check your rights at the door" airline security theater).

Also keep in mind that airlines carry over 1.25 *billion* passengers per year. Of those, perhaps half a dozen may actually be terrorists -- in a terrorism-heavy year. Even a 99.9% accuracy rate for detecting airline terrorists gives you over one million innocent passengers treated like dirt for no reason.

It's just a really bad tradeoff.

Re:Why ? (1)

shabtai87 (1715592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822114)

You don't have to use the airlines. It's not a right to get on a plane without being searched. There are alternatives: buses, trains, boats... When I buy a plane ticket, I am aware that I might be pulled aside, questioned and searched, and that is part of the price I pay to travel from one place to another quickly. Just as an example, the last time I flew back from Israel, I was questioned for a good 10 minutes and everything I had was thoroughly searched. There it's just another part of the process, and I don't complain because they realize that safety is such a big issue. The point is to mix the various detection schemes to best identify terrorists in case (as what just happened) the CIA/FBI fail to stop the boarding of a known/suspected terrorist. Despite the best efforts of the security teams, both the underwear and shoe bombers had to be stopped by other passengers. Yes, 16/1.25billion is a very difficult number to detect, but just one missed terrorist is 200+ people dead, assuming that plane is all that's taken out. So despite that this method alone is, I admit, a low-information measure, in conjunction with other measures already in place, the result might be better able to determine if a person is a danger. If anything maybe a computer can figure out that a single young male with a one way ticket to Detroit from Nigeria with no luggage, no carry-on and not even a jacket is probably more suspicious that a couple with a round trip ticket to some common vacation locale with the expected amount of luggage for the week. (too much luggage from Columbia might be more of interest to the DEA :P)

Re:Why ? (1)

algormortis (1422619) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820660)

Gosh darnit, you're right! All a terrorist would have to do is groom himself, wear deodorant, take some muscle relaxants, and inject the guy in front of them with a shot of testosterone to avoid all suspicion!

Profiling (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821046)

Every last terrorist who has ever tried to hijack a US airplane has one thing in common: they are Arabs, they are Islamic, and they have brown to light brown skin. Why do we not give extra scanning etc. to people who fit this description as a matter of policy? So why are we stopping little old ladies and inspecting their bags? Why is profiling so wrong when we did not choose this enemy and cannot help that they all have so much in common that makes them so identifiable?

Re:Profiling (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824384)

There have been plenty of US aircraft hijackers who were not Arabs, Muslim, or with light brown to brown skin. Hijacking aircraft to Cuba was almost a running joke in my youth. Similarly, there have been plenty of terrorists in the US not matching that description, including the guy behind the second most lethal terrorist incident in US history.

Israeli-style security (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820140)

I thought the Israeli "trick" were these long interviews face-to-face by trained humans looking you right in the eye.

I doubt 2 pieces of software are better than a trained human.

Re:Israeli-style security (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820790)

Yes, in my experience flying El Al, that "trick" works splendidly. Particularly when the interview is conducted by a gun-toting human under the watchful eye of other gun-toting humans.

They've lightened up a bit in recent decades, but 40 years ago airport security in some parts of the world was serious stuff. Flying into Israel, at the check-in counter security required all passengers to check *all* of their baggage and carry-ons before proceeding to the boarding area - which was actually a large room opening to the apron where the aircraft waited. Passengers arrived in that room to find all of their baggage in neat rows on the floor where bomb-sniffing dogs were inspecting it. Oh, and there were more humans with guns.

Each passenger when called had to claim his/her baggage and then proceed with it to a station where it was searched while the passenger was carefully watched. From there to the apron. When all of the baggage and all of the people were on the apron, then the baggage was loaded on the plane. But not until then. Anything left behind in the boarding room meant that everybody had to stand with their baggage on the apron until it was claimed and accounted for.

By the time people actually got on the airplane they'd been interviewed once at check-in with their baggage and carry-ons then taken away from them, then scrutinized before entering the boarding room, then scrutinized while claiming their baggage after dogs had sniffed it, then scrutinized again while taking their baggage was being searched, and then scrutinized one more time before actually getting on board.

Made you feel reasonably certain that nothing was going to happen on the plane.

Re:Israeli-style security (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821716)

Ha! That's nothing. According to TFA, we're going to look at everything

"[Data processing parses the data to form attributes.] Attributes may include an individual's age, make and/or model of a vehicle, color of a hat, breed of a dog, sound of an engine, a medical diagnosis, a date of birth, a color, item of clothing, walking, talking, running, a type of food eaten, an identification of an item purchased.

An attribute that is an event may include eating, smoking, walking, jogging, walking a dog, carrying bags, carrying a baby, riding a bicycle, an engine running, a baby crying, or any other event.

Sensory data processing categorizes the events. . . For example, a type of event may include a pace of walking, a companion of the cohort, a time of day a cohort eats a meal, a brand of soda purchased by the cohort, a pet purchased by the cohort, a type of medication taken by the cohort, or any other event."

I really cannot figure out just how 'a pet perchased by the cohort' has anything to do with well, anything the government ought to be worried about. Do people purchase pets in and around airports?

Total Informational Awareness [] !

Re:Israeli-style security (1)

shabtai87 (1715592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822200)

There's a doggy pound by the airport at JFK... Maybe adopting a dog reflects positively, making them less of a threat? most people i know who adopt dogs are pretty nice people!

I smell a rat (1)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820142)

The setup uses a collection of sensors -- video, motion, biometric and even olfactory

"Hey guys! This dude smells like Garry Kasparov!"

Re:I smell a rat (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820278)

    Maybe they'll put the olfactory sensors to good use, and make sure folks have at least showered before they fly. There's nothing like sitting beside someone who hasn't showered in a week, for an 8 hour flight. Ick.


Re:I smell a rat (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820706)

Basically, you want to ground Richard Stallman? Don't be hating on our GNUru, you shill!

Re:I smell a rat (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823904)

    No offense intended to the Stallman, but if he stinks, I don't want to sit beside him. I guess some people have a fetish for things unwashed, but I'm not one of them.

Re:I smell a rat (0, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820698)

Those old factories smell bad, don't they?

You know what? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820226)

I think I'll just drive or take Amtrak.

Re:You know what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30821034)

You have just made the first step to reducing your CO2 emissions

Well done...

Re:You know what? (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821202)

I think I'll just drive or take Amtrak.

Which begs the question: Why do terrorists insist on blowing up airplanes?

If my goal was to instill fear and a high body count, I'd just wear an explosive ladden vest and sit in the first car of the longest passenger train that I can find OR wrap said explosives in nails and wait in line at a concert OR ride a ferry OR catch the premiere of a blockbuster movie/opera/theatrical production in the largest theater that I can find and the list goes on...

Sure, the security theater that's going on now isn't doing anything to curb terrorism but even if it did, it's safe to assume that they would simply change targets.

Re:You know what? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821452)

As soon as this happens and the Northeast Corridor into NYC gets held up, our economy is screwed.

Money, Money, Money (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820296)

Must be funny........

1. Latch on to terrorism like a limpet.
2. Patent method relating to supposedly fighting said terrorism.
3. ???
4. Profit!

It sounds like a useless system with a ton of false positives possible whilst the people who should be under suspicion get away. The dodgy people with something to hide learnt how to defeat this kind of system long ago, and it'll be even worse with an automated system with little to new human intervention (bad idea for this sort of thing by the way). You just stay relaxed and look bored.

This terrorism racket isn't bad money.

Re:Money, Money, Money (1)

shabtai87 (1715592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820398)

The last guy who tried this (underwear bomber) was not a seasoned veteran of the terrorism wars. He was a young recruit. If you notice, these aren't exactly repeatable missions, meaning majority of the people who should be under suspicion are probably amateurs: the exact type of people who could be detected, despite additional false positives.

Re:Money, Money, Money (2, Interesting)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820562)

I think there are very few seasoned veterans of suicide bombing...

Also, I believe this is meant to be used to ASSIST actual people at checkpoints. It can't hurt to have an additional system help pick out suspicious people. Humans can only look at one person at a time as they walk by but the machine can keep a close eye on EVERYONE. What about people that try to get by the humans at the checkpoint and are worked up and nervous but then take a deep breath and regain their composure when they get close to the TSA employees? With a computer they'll be able to monitor and pick out those people well before they even get to the Xray machine and mark them for screening.

Sounds like it can't hurt. It's not like if the machine gives a false positive they throw you in jail. They just use a wand or pat you down. Heck, I was patted down the last two times I went through security and it barely took a minute.

Re:Money, Money, Money (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820780)

Heck, I was patted down the last two times I went through security and it barely took a minute.

Apparently you bought a season ticket for a box at the Security Theatre. You do realise that the pat-down is competely, utterly useless at finding anything harmful, right? Until they start cupping your balls and telling you to cough, it's just a big fat waste of your time, designed to make you feel safer, while doing nothing at all to make you safer.

Re:Money, Money, Money (2, Insightful)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820944)

Haha, yea. I realize that. I think people are smarter than keeping a weapon just tucked into their pants, but to anyone watching they don't know how well anyone is going to be patted down. Just the fact that they are stopping people is good because it just lets people know they are taking extra care to check people out. Some people more than others I guess.

The Hollerith Machine (1)

byrdfl3w (1193387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820346)

Is back! New and improved.

Re:The Hollerith Machine (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820984)

Must ... not ...Godwin forum ... but sooo tempting. Does it count as Godwin if it's relevant?

Re:The Hollerith Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822142)

Obviously not, are you an idiot?

"Godwin's Law does not apply to discussions directly addressing genocide, propaganda or other mainstays of the Nazi regime. Instead, it applies to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations to Hitler or Nazis."

Re:The Hollerith Machine (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824918)

I did not say that the parent Godwinned the topic. Rather I was suggesting that the article and parent setup a convenient environment for Godwinning the article. I really didn't expect anyone to fly off the handle at what was obviously a sarcastic reference to the law. But, I suppose someone with low reading comprehension, posting as anonymous coward, would be enough of a self-righteous ass to do so.

IBM has a track record (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820356)

after all, didn't they provide sophisticated technology for efficiently tracking and "managing" people who were not like the ordinary folks to a certain German government in the past ?

Re:IBM has a track record (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820636)

This is different. The people we are fighting aren't financiers and artisans like the Jews in Europe were -- they have nothing to go for them, morally, economically or otherwise.

Olfactory? (2, Funny)

macintard (1270416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820376)

I suppose eating Chipotle before boarding a flight *could* be considered terrorism...

Baby, I got your number. (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820836)

I suppose eating Chipotle before boarding a flight *could* be considered terrorism...

Even since the airlines stopped providing service, I hit one of the many "bistros" in the concourse and take on a large bowl of chili or some roast beast affair, and at least 2 pints of Bud, maybe a shot. Onboard, I pop open a crudité in a Rubbermaid, full of brok-oh-lie, radishes, celery, and cauliflower, with a big cup-o-ranch. Then I move on to a deli sandwich made at home or picked up along the way in. To finish it off, I try to pick up some spicy tuna rolls. Let's see them try to classify my gas as "terroristic".

Actually, most other passengers look a little jealous when I start laying out the buffet.

This is all marketing hype and the patent would... (3, Interesting)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820396)

...(if granted) never stand up in court unless something truly novel was listed because this sort of 'data fusion' has been going on in the security industry for the past 10 years.

There is a very specific reason you will only see this sort of 'product' in testing for the next 10 years - 'false positives.' That's a very very important phrase in the security industry because software based solutions are supposed to act as force multipliers (although historically they're used to reduce forces in order to lower costs through automation, not to augment it) and if you've a high 'false positive' rate (as ALL of these behavioral analysis systems do) you actually impede normal security operations. Research in this area of physical security is active and ongoing, but veyr unlikely to produce anything usable except in very specific scenarios (objects left behind, loitering, et cetera.)

Re:This is all marketing hype and the patent would (2, Interesting)

yerM)M (720808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821078)

I agree and disagree at the same time. I worked on a similar stillborn project named AMISS (Advanced Material Information and Security System) fourteen years ago at a government lab designed to protect theft of nuclear material. There was a particular system from EDS called Sentinel used to identify intrusion and was used in places like rail yards. For a particular use case the false positive rate was staggeringly high and users quickly learned to ignore the alerts.

However, when we used our data fusion algorithms to augment the history of a person at a checkpoint (simulated) false positives were okay, they just enhanced the interrogation.

The problem is false negatives which is much harder to quantify. Of course we had access to a scintillator that could identify trace radioactive potassium from the banana you had for lunch...

Re:This is all marketing hype and the patent would (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823402)

Well, up until 2 years ago I was the software architect for a software company (bought by SIEMENS 3 years ago) that did nothing but sensor fusion and I can tell you that false positives are the entire roadblock to deploying production solutions. We had tons of great demos - that if you happened to match the scenario requirements you could use, unfortunately those perfect fits were rare. The software was still valuable, but gathering useful metrics and or discerning an 'alarm' condition with behavioral analysis is generally speaking, not currently feasible. A simple thing, to a human, such as someone leaving an object behind (a bomb scenario) is frightfully difficult to pull off in just about any environment you'd actually wish to monitor for such activity. Simply detecting someone moving in the wrong direction is incredibly difficult to handle in general usage scenarios. Simple to demonstrate, difficult to put to practical use, that's the current story of behavioral analysis.

Re:This is all marketing hype and the patent would (1)

yerM)M (720808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823806)

I'm in complete agreement with you if the goal is near 100% automation, false positives are maddening and prohibitive as I mentioned with the Sentinel system. And I will also say that our goals were quite different than yours appear to be. We didn't expect very good false positive rates, but we had quite good false negative rates. However, the main aspect was that we did use the sensor fusion date to guide checkpoint interrogations.

You will note that the best scoring criteria for our data fusion was when an individual went between checkpoints, and was interrogated by a trained guard. What I meant by enhanced interrogation at checkpoints is a little more subtle.

As opposed to:

Danger: Phil is in facility X!


Guard at checkpoint:Phil, we noticed that you went into facility X where you don't normally go, could you tell us why?

As the Israeli's will tell you, nothing beats a good, well trained, interrogator, and the more information he has the better. I will agree that our facilities had far fewer people in them than in an airport so what it boils down to is that you can't interrogate everybody so triage will need to be done.

And you are quite right that detecting objects being left behind was quite complicated. We had two particular benefits (1) We were more worried about objects leaving the facility than entering and particular objects at that and (2) we were in complete (almost) control of the facility with regards to checkpoints.

All that being said, the intrusion detection system from EDS simply sucked. Our best success was using it to toggle the camera priorities, i.e. we didn't show alerts we just cycled the cameras to view the hotspots first, again we used it to guide human intervention rather than supplant it.

They have experience. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820468)

They were working [] with experts on profiling.

This is insane. (2, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820472)

There is bound to be a high false positive rate with this system. Out of millions of people that will be profiled by this system per day, how many actual terrorist are there? Perhaps one or two a year?

Would actual terrorists behave or have other characteristics all that different that would definitively distinguish them from millions of others? I don't think so.

So really, in their efforts to find a needle in a haystack, many innocent people are going to be harassed.

Also, also with the needle in the haystack issue, I don't see this system effective in catching all actual terrorists, since they will be doing their best to "blend in" with the crowd and not stick out anyway.

So expect to have high failure rates of both type 1 and type 2 natures.

And so, the billions of dollars to deploy this system is justified how?

Not to mention all the civil rights issues with the government monitoring your biometrics without your consent or knowledge. Who knows what will be done with the data, and how it may affect you in the future? There are expectations of privacy violations here, which will be fought out in the courts.

Meanwhile, another "terrorist" will go "BOO", and you'll see hearings and blame-pointing and everything else at why this high-tech expensive system failed to catch the needle in a very big haystack "terrorist".

And now I am about to cause the paranoid US to spend billions more: BOO.

Re:This is insane. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820822)

Terrowhats? This is designed to identify stoners and bail jumpers who could be making money for Incarceration Incorporated, not The Terrorists. There's no money in that.

Re:This is insane. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822194)

Would actual terrorists behave or have other characteristics all that different that would definitively distinguish them from millions of others? I don't think so.

Well, they're expecting to be introduced to their 72 virgins in a few hours, so I'd expect that you could just look for guys wandering around with a big smile on their face.

United States of Patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820486)

Patenting should have been stopped when life was being patented.

Arousal, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820498)

With these advanced sensors, they can observe pupil dilation, increased heart rate, perspiration, and rapid breathing. This is especially handy considering the fact that all terrorists are sporting a woody to the notion of a 72some. But hey, if all else fails, the technology will at least let the security guards know who to hit on.

Device to "smell” snake oil, identify terror (2, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820516)

A device claimed to “smell” snake oil [] is being marketed as identifying terrorists by detecting “snake pheromones” in sweat.

“The challenge lies in the characterisation and identification of the specific chemical that gives away the signature of complete bollocks,” said project leader Professor Tong Sun of City University, “especially the fear of losing funding for security theatre. If we can reliably detect this fear, we should be able to land some eyewateringly lucrative contracts in the very near future.”

The research is funded by the Home Office. “The project relies on a government with a firm commitment to policy-based science, but the Tories look as craven over David Nutt’s firing as Labour, so we should be coining it in for a good while yet.”

The technology will assist airport security officers in picking out suitable subjects. Sensors can reliably detect if someone is a bit brown, or a bit foreign-looking, or has a non-Anglo-Saxon name, or if they might be thinking of giving cheek to security officers. It will work in conjunction with the millimetre-wave “naked” radar, currently used to identify terrorist subjects with large breasts.

The false positive rate will be only 5% on a terrorist detection rate of 1 in 100,000, meaning only 99.95% of subjects flagged will be a complete waste of time to finger up the arse with a latex glove. “But we’re sure the government will agree that mere statistical evidence is meaningless in the face of the vital necessity to send the right message,” said Prof Sun, “that if you make trouble the government will quite literally forcibly fuck you in the arse until you bleed. So just shut the fuck up and keep giving us money.”


d34dluk3 (1659991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822090)

This is the funniest thing I've read this year (not hyperbole...yet).


David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823536)

We aim to please! [] You aim too, please!

How funny it would be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820520)

To hand out free curry and kebabs outside of security control.

Funny for bystanders when you get towed in by security for terrorist activities, that is.

Dysfunctional Empire (0, Troll)

rolandansgar (1724766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820574)

More insanity coming from a mentally degenerate elite. Der Geist der Zeit: Faschismus.

Too Small a Scope ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820590)

They would be better off patenting application of science to everyday problems (beware not to forget) by use of a computing device.

On a side note, I am sure that these 'see thru' scanner pictures [] will be part of the game, as I anticipated [] .


As with many such systems.. (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820752)

I am left wondering where they are going to find some bonafide terrorists to calibrate their setup.

How could a "false positive" ever fight this? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820806)

"Our machines have determined that you are a security risk. Our machines aren't capable of stating any reason, so there is nothing you can point to to clear yourself. Our machines just have a hunch, a gut feeling based on their heuristics and rules. We can tell you what the heuristics and rules are, but not how applying them led to your identification as a security risk. You can cross-examine the people who wrote those rules in court, and they will testify that the code contains no known bugs, but you cannot cross-examine the machine that actually made the identification in court."

As always, inexorable mathematics guarantee that most of the identifications will be false positives. Say the machine fingers one traveller in ten thousand, and one traveller in a million is a terrorist; then even if it correctly identifies every terrorist, 99% of its identifications will be false positives. If you don't like those numbers, plug in whatever ones you think are plausible.

If this happened to me I would be so upset and hostile that it would induce suspicious behavior in me, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Re:How could a "false positive" ever fight this? (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821020)

"So, tell me about your mother..."

It seems that many of us would be more comfortable with a brief Voight-Kampff styled interview rather than all the mechanical inspections of one kind or another. Just as when entering the US from abroad, a generally friendly (but scrutinizing) officer will ask you a few questions about your reasons for travel -- not because he/she wants to know the answers, but because they are generally trying to divine through your behavior whether you may be some kind of thread.

Analyzing furtive glances? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820862)

"Analyzing furtive glances", ey?

So every time a pretty lady walks through the airport, there are 250 terrorist alarms going off.

Airport profiling (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820934)

Well, when I read "airport profiling" I thought how convenient it would be to be able to avoid all the suspicious airports during my travels. A profile of airport conditions would be nice to have.

I mean, seriously, that's what it's coming down to. How can I minimize the risk of undue and irrational harassment while en route to my destination? As it is, I try to avoid travel through the United States entirely, and that's a shame, because it's a nice place once you get away from all the people waving guns around.

Does it detect Replicants? (1)

turtleshadow (180842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30821654)

Seriously, I wonder if just the Voight-Kampff test after being given a set of questions, when cross-referenced could detect terrorists. Domestic or Foreign terrorists have to be so programmed / screwed up to not have many human responses left inside.

analyzing furtive glances (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822084)

er, wouldn't the 'terr'ists' kinda act normal so as not to attract suspicion ?

Feedback loops and seeding (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822112)

One of the things I find funniest about this concept is its potential for feedback loops. Suspend your disbelief for a moment, and assume that the system actually works as promised -- automatically flagging anyone who's acting nervous or furtive for the security teams. Among the other false (ie, non-terrorist) positives, you'll have people who are afraid of flying, minorities, anybody who's already on the no-fly list, anyone smart enough not to trust computerized profiling systems, and anyone who's been screwed over by the system before. This last group is key -- after the first time they get tackled to the floor, held at gunpoint, stripped, and interrogated for no particular reason, most people will tend to be a bit cautious about going back to the airport again. Of course, since the system is designed to flag people acting a bit paranoid, this suggests that anyone who's flagged as a false positive once will be _far_ more likely to be flagged as a false positive a second time. This will make the victim even more nervous about going to the airport (not to mention any of their friends or family who just saw their loved one escorted off at gunpoint), and the cycle can continue indefinitely.

The other thing I find curious about these proposed patents is that it's not clear how they're going to initially seed the system. In theory, this system could potentially flag actual terrorists based on non-obvious combinations of behaviors and actions. But in order for this to work, they'll have to have a large enough data set of terrorists in order to train the system with actual data. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), terrorists are a statistically insignificant portion of the people who use airports every day -- and they'll have to monitor quite a few actual terrorists with this system before they can establish real data points for 'suspicious behavior'. So what are they planning to use for the initial profiling criteria? Skin color (notably _not_ mentioned in TFA)? Wearing a turban? Holding a cocker spaniel and a crying baby? Such a system _might_ eventually be trainable, after they've monitored several hundred terrorists (and flagged millions of false positives), but until then, even a perfectly designed system simply wouldn't work.

The only possible upside to this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822120)

Could we at least bring what we wanted into the plane again? Cut down on security? Allow people to meet their S.O.s after they come off the plane? Bring things back to the good old days?

Because obviously this technology is so great, and all.

Something tells me, though, that we will be subjected to this in ADDITION to the security theater we are already forced to endure.

ED-209 (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822730)

There's a brilliant demonstration of this system in the first 30 minutes of the movie ROBOCOP. As you can see, the terrorist was correctly identified and eliminated as a threat. There were no glitches or errors of any kind and the project was a complete success.

Prior Art (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823422)

Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements

Prior art - see Voight-Kampff.

This technology is incomplete... (1)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823674)

...unless they also manage to watch for people that are furtively scratching their crotches. Only a crotch-bomber would ever do such a thing.

They might get a few false positives from baseball players, though. Crotch-bombers and baseball players.

And maybe guys. Crotch-bombers and baseball players and guys. Then they're all set.

We need more airport profiling (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824242)

I think more airport profiling is a good thing. Remember the utterly broken baggage handling system at the Denver airport? Profiling would have caught this earlier. Or the airport that always seems to have a trick up its sleeve? Again, profiling would have caught this airport before it even was allowed to put down its runways. Sure, airport profiling might result in some racial profiling, like whether it was made by this or that construction company, but this can be managed.
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