Since at least 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has been toying with mind-reading technology, trying to develop a system to identify and catch would-be criminals, terrorists, or other so-called “malintents” before they strike. According to a DHS document released this week
, the feds now plan to test the pre-crime detection program, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology” or FAST, in public places like “special events, mass transit portals and border crossings.”
The FAST program uses a series of sensors tracking body movements, changes in voice (like pitch, rhythm, or intonation), eye movements, changes and body heat and breath patterns, all “designed to detect malintent cues and identify individuals intending to cause harm.” A section of DHS' website
covering Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Projects (where you'll find mention of some more cool/scary stuff Big Brother's cooking up) provides only a three-sentence description of FAST. But a handful of internal DHS documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center
this year show that FAST aims not only to “collect, process, or retain information” on members of the public, but that officials are devising
“FAST Mobile Module” systems that DHS could quickly deploy to any security checkpoint, border crossing, or major public event, like conventions or sporting events.
To be clear, DHS has not yet revealed any plans to test this thought-crime detection technology on the unknowing public. In the FAST program's most recent Privacy Impact Assessment, dated December 21, DHS says the new operational tests at large events, transit hubs and border crossings will be closed and only involve volunteer participants. But in its privacy assessment, DHS also spills plans for new research into “Passive Methods for Precision Behavioral Screening.” The assessment goes on to say DHS is researching “passive stimuli” that can reveal someone's “malintent and associated behavioral physiological responses, without the need for an active conversant response by the individual.” More simply put: finding more ways to tell if someone plans to commit a crime without actively speaking to, interrogating, or questioning them.