US crime predicting technology tests draw Minority Report comparisons
The US Department of Homeland Security has begun testing crime predicting technology that is drawing comparisons to the science fiction film Minority Report.
Using cameras and sensors the "pre-crime" system measures and tracks changes in a person's body movements, the pitch of their voice and the rhythm of their speech.
It also monitors breathing patterns, eye movements, blink rate and alterations in body heat, which are used to assess an individual's likelihood to commit a crime.
The Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) programme is already being tested on a group of government employees who volunteered to act as guinea pigs.
The first test was carried out at an undisclosed location in the north-eastern United States.
According to the Department of Homeland Security it was not at an airport, but was at a "large venue that is a suitable substitute for an operational setting".
Ultimately, the system could be used not only at airports but at border crossings and any large scale public events like sports matches or political conventions.
However, civil liberties groups have called it a "pseudo technological approach" and raised privacy concerns.
In the 2002 Hollywood blockbuster Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a police officer in a specialised "PreCrime" department.
Psychics are used to give detectives foreknowledge of someone's criminal intentions.
The FAST system is instead based on equipment including infrared cameras and pressure pads to detect fidgeting.
Details of the system were obtained through freedom of information laws by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (Epic) based in Washington DC.
A document they obtained said that "sensors will non-intrusively collect video images, audio recordings, and psychophysiological measurements".
Ginger McCall, a lawyer for the non-profit group, told CBS News: "If it were deployed against the public, it would be very problematic.
"They should do a privacy impact assessment. Especially if they're going to be rolling this out at the airport."
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard told the technology website CNET that "preliminary research" had been carried out to see if the technology could detect signs of stress, which can be associated with intent to do harm.
According to the documents obtained by Epic, the next trial may involve volunteer members of the public with experience in the food service industry.
They would be asked to work at a "one day VIP event" and some of them would be told to do something wrong, like smuggling in a recording device. The technology would then be used to identify the perpetrators.
A Homeland Security spokesman said the FAST experiments were voluntary and did not store any information from those involved.
He added: "If it were ever to be deployed, there would be no personally-identifiable information captured from people going through the system."