Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Body Language and Facial Expression Police at airports...no, I'm not kidding

The Behavior Cops are watching you.
Next time you go to the airport, there may be more eyes on you than you notice.

Specially trained security personnel are watching body language and facial cues of passengers for signs of bad intentions. The watcher could be the attendant who hands you the tray for your laptop or the one standing behind the ticket-checker. Or the one next to the curbside baggage attendant.

They're called Behavior Detection Officers, and they're part of several recent security upgrades...
They're already at a dozen airports, and there will be 500 officers by the end of next year. Watching your face. Watching your body. But enough about my fantasies.
Behavior detection officers work in pairs. Typically, one officer sizes up passengers openly while the other seems to be performing a routine security duty. A passenger who arouses suspicion, whether by micro-expressions, social interaction or body language gets subtle but more serious scrutiny.
Got that? Micro-expressions are cause for alarm. A mere flicker. I can see the signs now: "Poker faces advised beyond this point."
The Department of Homeland Security hopes to dramatically enhance such security practices.
Yikes--there's that "enhance" word again. Remember "enhanced interrogations"? Torture much?

Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, said in May that he wants to automate passenger screening by using videocams and computers to measure and analyze heart rate, respiration, body temperature and verbal responses as well as facial micro-expressions.

Homeland Security is seeking proposals from scientists to develop such technology.
Not that they ever believed in science before this, but you know, if the fear factor fits...
It faces high hurdles, however. Different cultures express themselves differently. Expressions and body language are easy to misread, and no one's catalogued them all. [...] Finally, the extensive data-gathering of passengers' personal information will raise civil-liberties concerns.
Nooooo, really? Civil liberties? Like they ever counted. And about those different cultures, would that lead to "blink profiling" or "twitch discrimination"? What if you're Middle Eastern with a poker face, but American with a nervous cough? What a challenge, huh? Whew! I don't envy them Face Cops!
In Cohen's PowerPoint slide accompanying his aviation industry presentation was this slogan: "Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible."
Now there's a guy with a dream.


At 11:19 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

So if a flirt winks, they get extraordinary rendition? Not good for the airport bar biz, one might surmise.

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First we have to smile for the cameras as we're speeding through an intersection, now we have to walk stone faced through the airport. Gov't controlling our emotions much?

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Corinne said...

El Al has used microexpressions as part of its security procedures for years.

All passengers undergo some form of questioning during check-in. Most are questioned briefly and continue. Others have all the contents of their luggage — to the smallest toothpaste tube — examined.

By questioning passengers, guards can quickly spot those who appear nervous, said Leo Gleser, a former El Al security officer and head of ISDS, a security consulting firm.


After 9/11 there was much talk in DC about adopting many of El Al's security procedures, which are probably the most stringent in the world and have led to charges of racial profiling among Arabs.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Yep, that was mentioned in the piece, too.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if flying causes you great anxiety, and you have a panic attack while waiting to board, you are gaurenteed to be scrutinized.
Really makes me want to fly. The thought of attracting attention, then being whisked off for a strip/cavity search really makes flying seem so fun.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

It's already so easy, what with all the restrictions, lines, delays, cancellations, and intimidation. Think of this as just another enhancement.

Make it a family affair! Bring the kids!

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Metro said...

What I want to know is, can I learn to fake the microexpressions?

I mean, it'd be just as amusing as saying "Careful with my suitcase, the timer's kinda sensitive" to a securi-goon, but without crossing the "Things it is now actually illegal to say in airports" line.

If I could, I'd like to learn the most subtle of threatening expressions, keep them guessing. I'd love being followed through the airport by a phalanx of guards--I'd feel so SAFE!

At 12:17 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Just remember to make it fleeting, to really make them work.

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