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Biometric polygraph next for airport security?
Published: 2006-08-14

Got something to hide? You may want to reconsidering flying in the future.

An Israeli company has come up with a biometric system for detecting emotional responses to a series of questions. The system, dubbed Cognito, uses polygraph-like techniques to detect when a passenger is worried during a series of questions. Within 5 minutes, the system makes a determination of whether the passenger should be further questioned by authorities, according to the company.

"What we are looking for are patterns of behavior that indicate something all terrorists have: the fear of being caught," Shabtai Shoval, chief executive of biometric systems maker Suspect Detection Systems, told the Wall Street Journal in a Monday article.

The technology is more than a year old, but is getting renewed interest because of the latest threat to airline fliers from more than two dozens terrorists suspects that planned to blowup flights from the United Kingdom to the United States using liquid explosives. Many companies have looked to biometrics to help secure identities and recognize criminals, but the technology still has major problems when operating in real-life scenarios. The unproven nature of various biometric technologies has not stopped consumers from starting to use fingerprint identification at the checkout counter.

The Cognito technology also has some major issues before it can be deployed. While it has flagged about 85 percent of mock terrorists in tests, it has also flagged a whopping 8 percent of innocent travelers as potential terrorists. With more than 750 million people likely to fly on U.S. carriers this year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, that means that security personnel would have to spend extra time with more than 60 million people.

The math is reminiscent of the data mining programs that the National Security Agency is thought to be pursuing.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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