RSS
Mind readers vs. terrorists
F

orget 'naked' scanners — airport security agents might soon be reading your mind. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security is considering using new "mind reading" technology to foil terrorists. One such device, produced by Israeli company WeCU ("We See You"), projects images, such as symbols associated with terrorist groups, onto a screen. Censors detect suspicious reactions, such as diverted eyes, faster breathing, and increased heart rate, and determine who should get more thorough screening. Is mind reading a necessary next step to make us safer, or an unacceptable invasion of privacy?

This means more scrutiny for terrorists, and less for grandma: Mind-reading technologies won't just "catch terrorists and keep passengers safe," says Stan Shyshkin in Brick House Security. They'll make getting through the security checkpoints far less of a hassle by eliminating the need for "random security checks." We'll all benefit when security workers don't have to waste time on people who clearly aren't terrorists, like "80-year-old grandmothers."
"The future of airport security"

But what about civil liberties? Sure, mind-reading technology has the potential to reduce "hassle," says Daniel Tencer in Raw Story, but "the risks to personal privacy inherent in mind-reading technologies are self-evident." One Israeli company, Suspect Detection Systems, has received $460,000 in grants from the Transportation Security Administration to work on a system that "reads a person's 'hostile intent.'" Worried yet?
"TSA funding airport mind-reading scanners"

Mind readers won't be fool-proof: While "it may be true that hiding emotions is actually harder than hiding a bomb," says Anna N. in Jezebel, there's still a chance these systems will get it wrong — "just as innocent people are pulled aside now for wearing a metal belt buckle or being Pakistani." It's "comforting" to know that scientists are trying to create scanning systems that are "both totally accurate and totally fair" -- but until the perfect machine is invented we'll have to "make a choice between liberty and security."
"Step to the right and open your brain: Will "mind-reading" improve airport security?"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week