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Old Dec 31, 13, 9:19 am   #1
 
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Can Robots Better Spot Terrorists at Airports?

What does the future hold for the TSA and other airport security officers? Could there be pink slips and automated kiosks involved?

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About 28% of the world's airports now use biometric technology, up from 18% in 2008, according to a survey by SITA, an airline IT provider.
http://online.wsj.com/news/article_e...MDMwMDEzNDAyWj
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Old Dec 31, 13, 10:29 am   #2
 
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TSA will be fine, just that their jobs will evolve. Plus, a disaster will bring more of them back. The future is in about 20-30 years not now.
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Old Dec 31, 13, 11:05 am   #3
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CNN is doing a story of this right now. One of the key things that stood out to me was the idea that freeing up the clerks would better allow them to do behavioral checks... Too bad to see the reporter drinking the Kool-Aid about the BDCs.
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Old Jan 1, 14, 3:03 am   #4
 
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Originally Posted by FriendlySkies View Post
CNN is doing a story of this right now. One of the key things that stood out to me was the idea that freeing up the clerks would better allow them to do behavioral checks... Too bad to see the reporter drinking the Kool-Aid about the BDCs.
Set the BDO program aside for a second and think about the intuitions that you yourself have had in the past (seriously, take the BDO program out of the process for a moment). The impression I got from most of what I have seen and read so far about automation of basic screening process (not just in this case) is that the TSOs can be freed up to do the other parts of security. Some of this includes watching people for those that stand out - you and about 99% of us do this all day, everyday, everywhere. You get that sense of someone that you don't want to be near, you avoid them, many times subconsciously. Police Officers do it all day while on patrol, something sticks out, they (at least some of them do) go check out what is going on. I think that one problem with automating the system completely is losing that human element of intuition. We can program the crap out of computers, but until we have some pretty serious software breakthroughs, they are not going to have the same natural reaction to things that make us aware of someone that is outside of the norms and mores of the location. While I am all for automation as part of the process, I would always be more comfortable with some humans at the location (regardless of whether it remains TSA or some other form of security as many suggest). We have developed this internal "radar" over millenia, to ignore it is to deny an effective tool in the process.
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Old Jan 1, 14, 11:34 am   #5
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Can Robots Better Spot Terrorists at Airports?
Do you mean any better than the "current robots"?
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Old Jan 1, 14, 12:11 pm   #6
 
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West, you know the respect I have for you --- especially for braving this forum on a regular basis. But I'm going to disagree with you pretty strongly on this one.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Some of this includes watching people for those that stand out - you and about 99% of us do this all day, everyday, everywhere. You get that sense of someone that you don't want to be near, you avoid them, many times subconsciously.
And, many times, that subconscious judgment is based on items that are not appropriate for a security officer --- judgments based on race, on gender, on religion, and so on.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Police Officers do it all day while on patrol, something sticks out, they (at least some of them do) go check out what is going on.
And look at how much controversy "stop-and-frisk" has in the communities where it is practiced, such as New York City. Most NYPD officers would tell you that they're simply checking out people who "don't fit" ... and, lo and behold, the percentage of African Americans who "don't fit" far exceeds their proportions in the general population.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
I think that one problem with automating the system completely is losing that human element of intuition.
It also potentially eliminates that human element of prejudice.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
We can program the crap out of computers, but until we have some pretty serious software breakthroughs, they are not going to have the same natural reaction to things that make us aware of someone that is outside of the norms and mores of the location.
Ah ... the thoroughly-discredited "War on the Unexpected".

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
While I am all for automation as part of the process, I would always be more comfortable with some humans at the location (regardless of whether it remains TSA or some other form of security as many suggest). We have developed this internal "radar" over millenia, to ignore it is to deny an effective tool in the process.
As a technologist, I'm in agreement that security screening tasks shouldn't be completely automated. Technologies fail, and humans are needed to recognize their failures and compensate for them. But let's not pretend that humans are perfect either. There are times that impersonal judgments are to be preferred over subjective human judgments.
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Old Jan 1, 14, 12:46 pm   #7
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Surprise! How about simply screening everyone entering the sterile area with x-ray of belongings, walk through / hand held metal detector, and explosive trace detection / explosive trace portal? Nothing more, nothing less.
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Old Jan 1, 14, 12:54 pm   #8
 
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What happened to these types of screening, the first of which we were told would be in use around this time:

http://gizmodo.com/5923980/the-secre...hing-about-you

or some version of this contraption:

http://www.sri.com/engage/products-s...-portal-system
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Old Jan 4, 14, 5:34 am   #9
 
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Originally Posted by jkhuggins View Post
West, you know the respect I have for you --- especially for braving this forum on a regular basis. But I'm going to disagree with you pretty strongly on this one.



And, many times, that subconscious judgment is based on items that are not appropriate for a security officer --- judgments based on race, on gender, on religion, and so on.



And look at how much controversy "stop-and-frisk" has in the communities where it is practiced, such as New York City. Most NYPD officers would tell you that they're simply checking out people who "don't fit" ... and, lo and behold, the percentage of African Americans who "don't fit" far exceeds their proportions in the general population.



It also potentially eliminates that human element of prejudice.



Ah ... the thoroughly-discredited "War on the Unexpected".



As a technologist, I'm in agreement that security screening tasks shouldn't be completely automated. Technologies fail, and humans are needed to recognize their failures and compensate for them. But let's not pretend that humans are perfect either. There are times that impersonal judgments are to be preferred over subjective human judgments.
That is a mutual respect!

Before I address your points, I will point out that humans are indeed fallible. We are shaped by our pasts, our desires, our training or learning and in many cases are prone to snap judgements (ok, almost always).

In many cases, race, gender and any myriad other preconiceived notions shape our reactions to someone/thing. The key is to move past those particulars and focus on things that are generally accepted indicators. People that look nervous are usually nervous. Most of us pick up on that in ways we can't always describe, we call it intuition, reading people, being aware of our surroundings, and in some cases "feeling things in someones nature" (that last one is usually used by palm readers and psychics, so YMMV). Learning how to separate noticing things that are truly out of the norm from things such as gender, race or religion is where the crux is. This process has merit, whether it si simply what you have learned from going through life and paying attention to your internal alarm bells when they go off, or programs that focus and give articulable, descriptive words to those things we notice.

I agree that stop and frisk has been a challenging process and the numbers are hard to refute (although we probably have a few folks on here that can cite statistics on the positive impact the process has had and well reasoned explanations for the statistical differences). I am not talking about that particular kind of process, that is more of a go out and find things in areas that have high crime rates type of process (at least, that is what they have said it is all along) - where noticing something out of the norm in a static area is a different animal, especially when it is an area you work in and know well. Being aware of things in your area or operations is something that all security (and even those of us that wish to be able to avoid some of the awkward or troubling situations in our lives) personnel should be mindful of. That domain awareness can lead to the ability to communicate more effectively with passengers, the ability to anticipate what some folks need before they ask for it, the ability to have things better prepared as folks enter with special needs - good domain awareness is an essential tool for security personnel. The offshoot of that awareness is noticing when something is out of the ordinary (and trust me, what stands as ordinary in most airports in this country is fairly extrordinary to most areas outside of them!). Now the discussion on what to do after noticing something out of the ordinary is one I can't participate in, so I am merely Stating that having that human "intuition" is something I personally prefer, compared to being a set of blinders focused simply on one thing.

I am all for technological advancements that make the process more streamlined, more consistent and easier on the passengers. I too agree that we need some level of human interaction to make certain the equipment is functioning properly. I think the point we disagree on will be the inclusion of humans and the recognition of the fact that they can notice things that machines can't. Whether we call it intuition, divining, felling or another collective of words - or whether it is a skill set trained into the employees, I like having that around. I will concede to you that there are times when dealing with a machine would be preferable to dealing with a person - we have all had that situation in our lives... repeatedly it seems.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 5:40 am   #10
 
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Originally Posted by petaluma1 View Post
What happened to these types of screening, the first of which we were told would be in use around this time:

http://gizmodo.com/5923980/the-secre...hing-about-you

or some version of this contraption:

http://www.sri.com/engage/products-s...-portal-system
The combination of those techs is something that would change the way we do things in a fundamental manner. Depending upon your POV, it has been held up due to privacy concerns, costs and in some cases the scalability of the devices has been questioned. There is also the testing that has to be done on these items in a realtime enviornment to see if it can stand up to the everyday workload and surrounding elements - remember the "puffers", they are an excellent piece of equipment, they also had cost overruns and problems with being broken down in the real world setting of checkpoints.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 6:26 am   #11
 
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
The combination of those techs is something that would change the way we do things in a fundamental manner. Depending upon your POV, it has been held up due to privacy concerns, costs and in some cases the scalability of the devices has been questioned. There is also the testing that has to be done on these items in a realtime enviornment to see if it can stand up to the everyday workload and surrounding elements - remember the "puffers", they are an excellent piece of equipment, they also had cost overruns and problems with being broken down in the real world setting of checkpoints.
"Privacy concerns" my eye. The TSA has never had any concern for privacy. What did Napolitano say about enhanced/resolution pat downs? Something to the effect of the "public is just going to have to get used to police style pat downs." Chertoff on AIT said, to the effect of "just shut up and get in the machine."

~~

Re: stop and frisk

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I agree that stop and frisk has been a challenging process and the numbers are hard to refute (although we probably have a few folks on here that can cite statistics on the positive impact the process has had and well reasoned explanations for the statistical differences).
2011, 685,724 stops; 780 guns found. Do the math.

http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/11/19/...d-frisk-scare/

Last edited by petaluma1; Jan 4, 14 at 6:41 am.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 6:28 am   #12
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Robots can't usefully identify anything that their programmers haven't enabled. You can pretty much bet on the airport hunt for terrorists to be a stupid, expensive hunt that creates bigger haystacks in which to loose the proverbial needles -- robots or not.

None of this profiling junk advocated by profiling fans is needed for WEI interdiction to take place.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 6:47 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Set the BDO program aside for a second and think about the intuitions that you yourself have had in the past (seriously, take the BDO program out of the process for a moment). The impression I got from most of what I have seen and read so far about automation of basic screening process (not just in this case) is that the TSOs can be freed up to do the other parts of security. Some of this includes watching people for those that stand out - you and about 99% of us do this all day, everyday, everywhere. You get that sense of someone that you don't want to be near, you avoid them, many times subconsciously. Police Officers do it all day while on patrol, something sticks out, they (at least some of them do) go check out what is going on. I think that one problem with automating the system completely is losing that human element of intuition. We can program the crap out of computers, but until we have some pretty serious software breakthroughs, they are not going to have the same natural reaction to things that make us aware of someone that is outside of the norms and mores of the location. While I am all for automation as part of the process, I would always be more comfortable with some humans at the location (regardless of whether it remains TSA or some other form of security as many suggest). We have developed this internal "radar" over millenia, to ignore it is to deny an effective tool in the process.
How one perceives others depends to a great extent on how one perceives the world. If the world is a threatening place, then those who inhabit it will be intuited as threats - whether they are or are not.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 8:22 am   #14
 
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
In many cases, race, gender and any myriad other preconceived notions shape our reactions to someone/thing. The key is to move past those particulars and focus on things that are generally accepted indicators. People that look nervous are usually nervous.
Sure. And what reasons are there to be nervous in an airport?

For all but the most seasoned traveler, it's an unfamiliar place. The screening process --- a process which the traveler has virtually no control over --- must be completed by a fixed time in order for the passenger to board his/her flight; there's no way for a passenger to know if the screening process will conclude in a timely fashion. Screeners wear uniforms that are intentionally designed to reinforce the authority of the screener over the passenger. If you're not a middle-class white male, there are plenty of media reports of folks just like you who are inappropriately harassed for Flying While Black/Brown/Female/Disabled, leading you to wonder if you'll be the next victim.

And I haven't even mentioned fear of flying.

Yes, perhaps BDOs et. al. can be trained to eliminate those forms of nervousness and focus only on malicious intent. But the statistics posted above regarding "stop-and-frisk" would indicate otherwise --- and those are for fully-trained police officers, who receive far more extensive training than most TSOs, I expect.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Being aware of things in your area or operations is something that all security (and even those of us that wish to be able to avoid some of the awkward or troubling situations in our lives) personnel should be mindful of. That domain awareness can lead to the ability to communicate more effectively with passengers, the ability to anticipate what some folks need before they ask for it, the ability to have things better prepared as folks enter with special needs - good domain awareness is an essential tool for security personnel.
This would require a fundamental change in TSA philosophy: viewing the person being screened as a client to be served, not a potential enemy to be detected. I acknowledge that you seem to believe in this. TSA official pronouncements aside, the vast majority of front-line screeners don't seem to share your philosophy. And TSA suffers as a result, both in reputation and in its ability to perform its duties.

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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
The offshoot of that awareness is noticing when something is out of the ordinary (and trust me, what stands as ordinary in most airports in this country is fairly extrordinary to most areas outside of them!).
Regrettably, most TSOs don't seem to have figured that out.
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Old Jan 4, 14, 8:25 am   #15
 
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Originally Posted by petaluma1 View Post
"Privacy concerns" my eye. The TSA has never had any concern for privacy. What did Napolitano say about enhanced/resolution pat downs? Something to the effect of the "public is just going to have to get used to police style pat downs." Chertoff on AIT said, to the effect of "just shut up and get in the machine."

~~

Re: stop and frisk



2011, 685,724 stops; 780 guns found. Do the math.

http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/11/19/...d-frisk-scare/
I was not taking a side on the "Stop and Frisk" process, merely pointing out that one POV had been given, and that there are likely others that would present information that contradicts and/or rationalizes the process.

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How one perceives others depends to a great extent on how one perceives the world. If the world is a threatening place, then those who inhabit it will be intuited as threats - whether they are or are not.
Perception is 99% of how we go about our business daily. I know some folks that see the boogie man lurking around every corner and some folks that have never noticed a threat to them even when it is staring them in the eye. The world is not necessarily an inherently threatening place, but to go through life and ignore threats that are there can be a problem as well. Being aware of things that can be a threat and acting to avoid them (if possible) is simply common sense. Ignoring proven threats is showing a lack of said common sense. A balanced approach to life is IMHO the best way to go about it. Realize that the threats are out there and take steps to minimize your vulnerability, and the chances of those threats impacting you lessen. As far as a applying that thought process as a security paradigm, that is quite a ways above my pay grade.

I constantly advocate professionalism, courtesy and being aware of the surroundings (usually I just promote professionalism and courtesy here) as a base to start from in any security field - especially in the case of TSA. The passengers are simply trying to get from point A to B with a minimum of hassle, the majority of our job should be to facilitate that passage. I would venture that probably 70% of our daily challenges would be gone if we simply maintain professionalism, courtesy and awareness of our surroundings - it generates more effective communication, more positive interactions with the passengers and resolves many challenges before they happen. Then the discussions about TSA would move more from talking about the frontline folks that don't belong here to a discussion of policy - which is where changes in how we do business as a whole would come from.
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