An internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security document indicates that a controversial program designed to predict whether a person will commit a crime is already being tested on some members of the public voluntarily, CNET has learned.

If this sounds a bit like the Tom Cruise movie called “Minority Report,” or the CBS drama “Person of Interest,” it is. But where “Minority Report” author Philip K. Dick enlisted psychics to predict crimes, DHS is betting on algorithms: it’s building a “prototype screening facility” that it hopes will use factors such as ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rate to “detect cues indicative of mal-intent.”

The latest developments, which reveal efforts to “collect, process, or retain information on” members of “the public,” came to light through an internal DHS document obtained under open-government laws by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. DHS calls its “pre-crime” system Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST.

“If it were deployed against the public, it would be very problematic,” says Ginger McCall, open government counsel at EPIC, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
[…]
Elsewhere in the document, FAST program manager Robert Middleton Jr. refers to a “limited” initial trial using DHS employees as test subjects. Middleton says that FAST “sensors will non-intrusively collect video images, audio recordings, and psychophysiological measurements from the employees,” with a subgroup of employees singled out, with their permission, for more rigorous evaluation.

An update on the article has this:

A Homeland Security spokesman has just provided this additional statement to CNET: “The FAST program is entirely voluntary and does not store any personally-identifiable information (PII) from participants once the experiment is completed. The system is not designed to capture or store PII.”

Just like how they told us info can’t be/isn’t stored by the airport naked body scanners?



  1. moss says:

    “Paranoia strikes deep
    Into your life it will creep
    It starts when you’re always afraid…”

    • msbpodcast says:

      Step out of line
      The man come an’ take you away.

      Stop children, what’s sound?
      Everybody look what’s goin’ down…

      -Buffalo Springfield

  2. TED says:

    Humans are very unpredictable. It is impossible to predict what people will do at any given time! There are too many variables to consider. Actions of others, smells, sound, light, etc can trigger different responses from people in bad ways and in good ways.
    Throughout history, seemingly “normal” people have displayed erratic behavior without provocation.This has been handed down from when you were born having 2 ways of choice on how you should decide things. Good and Evil.

  3. it’s pre-crime!

  4. ReadyKilowatt, playing devil's advocate says:

    This isn’t good. I had both a Ron Paul bumper sticker and the 3 wolves tshirt for a while in 2007.

    I’m one “leave a penny, take a penny” theft away from being hauled off to Gitmo.

  5. EnemyOfTheState says:

    You know where I am. I am waiting for you.

  6. jescott418 says:

    So we can’t profile people but we can pre profile people who may commit crimes? OK, you know the Civil liberties organizations will be all over this.
    But I will be interested in knowing what the courts will think about people being targeted for appearing to want to commit a crime? How would you charge someone? Our justice system has always worked after a crime has been committed. So I will be interested to read how this could work in our system.

  7. Derek says:

    Would it have prevented this website layout, because it’s a heinous crime!

  8. Hmmm... says:

    This is set for failure. When you use those few variables to “predict” behavior you will miss a lot. I think you will be making so many assumption to make this work that it just won’t. The more you assume the less accurate it is.

    Breathing and heart rate? What? So, the minute you see a so called “potencial murderer” going for a jog he/she will be arrested for a sudden increase in breathing and sweating?

  9. busted&disgusted says:

    FAST bullcrap!!

    I would like to see white-collar criminals and pre-criminals tested right before they diabolically shake hands and sign some heinous bill/contract for their singular profit while billions suffer as the result. That would be interesting data.

    For I’m sure corporate criminals are not volunteering to be psychologically probed. And further: People who are thinking about committing crime aren’t going to voluntarily admit mal-intent to some governmental bust engine.

    I would even pose that the people responsible for the likes of the FAST program are an even more sinister type of criminal than the people they are after. Test the FASTies now!

  10. Publius says:

    The so-called algorithms are of approximately the same quality as the polygraph

    GARBAGE

    UTTER GARBAGE

  11. Publius says:

    This system is snake-oil, pure government snake-oil.

    Last year I watched it live on CSPAN where the DHS boss was answering soft-ball questions about it to one of our Good Senators.

    This system is far, far less accurate than the Magic 8-ball and more expensive than the flip of the coin.

    There is no independent analysis of the testing results. The false positives overwhelm the true positives in this system by miles and miles.

    Better safe than sorry is the motto of the Senator in charge of the whatever committee, so the elaborate Magic 8-ball is designed to make these bastards rich.

    That sound you just heard? The revolving door

  12. Publius says:

    The cost of this elaborate Magic 8-Ball is not just your money

    It is your freedom

  13. moebeans says:

    OK so they have a positive and they think this person will commit a crime. Now what? Put them under surveillance? Got a lot of free resources for tracking the thousands upon thousands of people that this will flag? Reprogram them? The Chinese can teach us how to do that. Not let them on the plane? This actually makes the no fly list look reasonable. The theory must be “nobody flies, nobody dies.”

    Am I suppose to feel safer knowing that this is what they seriously consider securing my country cause it ain’t working.

    This is what pisses me off about paying taxes.

  14. PistolPete says:

    CBS also just happens to be airing a new show on this exact premise, a government created computer that predicts crime.

    To say mainstream media/entertainment isn’t involved in mass propaganda is getting harder and harder…and sadder and sadder.

    And I haven’t seen the show but I’m assuming it’s pro pre-crime, it’s called “Persons of Interest” if anyone wants to check it out.

  15. jpfitz says:

    Ya know I’ve been trying my damndest to go with the flow but this pink and powder blue shit is for the birds. I have enjoyed DU for years but I’m tired of comments about the change. I might even miss Bobbo. Maybe not, but give us back our old DU. Or some semblance of it.

    There are some new features of the blog for the better, but mostly the color is what I find off. Is this blog only pleasant on an ipad? Ipad shmipad!
    I realize this is your blog Mr. Dvorak and mean no disrespect but we make up your audience. We are the new 99%. Well maybe 90%.
    PLEASE!
    PLEASE!
    PLEASE!

    I know I’m not alone except for a few regulars.

  16. Dvorak Censored says:

    Since Dvorak won’t let anyone comment on Jobs on his death blog, I will put this here, given no other choice.

    http://gawker.com/5847344/what-everyone-is-too-polite-to-say-about-steve-jobs

  17. Rich says:

    I’ll bet the algorithms are somewhat accurate now but will bet better with time. I also think this is slightly mad. But- thwarting this system could be as simple as changing your facial expression or putting on a pair of sunglasses to skew the readings. The same fellows who came up with the gummy bear method for fooling fingerprint readers could help us here. I don’t think this Big Brother crap is needed or will make society better.

  18. deowll says:

    The discussion about Jobs/Apple was pretty good. The forces behind out sourcing are diverse including demands made by government and unions which can quickly price companies right out of business.

    Apple like most companies is outsourcing manufacturing and most parts are ordered in bulk from venders they don’t own and assembled in huge sweat shops they don’t own.

    That these exist is the will of the government of China. The people that work there aren’t happy but over the last several years the pay has gone up compared to what previous generations got. That the Chinese people expect conditions to continue to improve is one of many bombs the government of China is setting on.

  19. jimmyr says:

    Let’s try it on Obama and the congress first, posting results to public record.

  20. chris says:

    I’m interested in how this works. Is it only looking for those who are breathing/sweating more than the average person or does it sample the same person over time looking for personal variation?

    If it isn’t a time series of observations on people I don’t think it will do a damn thing. Sweaty dudes or people running to catch a flight will get dinged all day and eventually the system will be scrapped as useless.

    If, on the other hand, it is trying to figure out when you are especially out of sorts it might be more effective. Also more troubling. It could easily be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Bother an over-stressed person with thought police and watch them act out. Arrest and repeat.

    What makes more sense to me, if we accept that the security state is naturally Orwellian, is to simply scan blog posts. The nutters are in evidence.

    • msbpodcast says:

      eventually the system will be scrapped as useless.

      Clearly, you don’t understand the bureaucratic mind.

      Just because something doesn’t work/i> does not mean its abandoned.

      Look at the various churches all backing the Ptolemaic astronomical model with all of those mysterious epicycles versus the more rational heliocentric model.

      Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake because he thought simpler is better

      • chris says:

        It WILL get abandoned, but only when the next new silver bullet is available for purchase.

  21. Aaron says:

    If they are testing it, they have to determine if it can accurately predict anything. To do so, they have to either wait for their “positives” to be caught committing crimes, or set up situations around them to encourage them to do so. They are going to want this to show results so i am betting on the latter. No more “Serve & Protect”, now we have “Predict & Convict”.

  22. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    What this tells me is not to run to catch my next flight.

  23. Somebody says:

    The witch hunters are back from the dark ages.

  24. JimD says:

    Time for the “Justice” Dept and DHS/TSA to bring back PHRENOLOGY – Here let me feel the BUMPS ON YOUR HEAD TO SEE IF YOU ARE THE “CRIMINAL ARCHETYPE” !!! Will STUPIDNESS EVER END ?