Automatic Scanning for Highly Stressed Individuals

This borders on ridiculous:

Chinese scientists are developing a mini-camera to scan crowds for highly stressed individuals, offering law-enforcement officers a potential tool to spot would-be suicide bombers.

[...]

"They all looked and behaved as ordinary people but their level of mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks. Our technology can detect such people, so law enforcement officers can take precautions and prevent these tragedies," Chen said.

Officers looking through the device at a crowd would see a mental "stress bar" above each person's head, and the suspects highlighted with a red face.

The researchers said they were able to use the technology to tell the difference between high-blood oxygen levels produced by stress rather than just physical exertion.

I'm not optimistic about this technology.

Posted on August 13, 2014 at 6:20 AM • 60 Comments

Comments

mattnyAugust 13, 2014 6:54 AM

So everyone with a sunburn on their face will be tagged as a super stressed out terrorist.

WmAugust 13, 2014 7:04 AM

I had a red neck boss once who would have been continuously stopped and questioned by the police. What is really going to be great is when the police start stopping people who are stressed because of just finding out they had lost a dear loved one, their wife just told them that she is bailing out on their marriage and going her own way, a person just found out that they are terminal, etc. This stress test is probably as valid as the phony lie detector. Like the phony lie detector, it will be continuously hyped as something valid and reliable.

DaiAugust 13, 2014 7:08 AM

What about all the people who are stressed because the police are scanning them, looking for people who are stressed?

JacobAugust 13, 2014 7:15 AM

There is a major flaw in the assumption that a suicide bomber (SB) is a highly stressfull individual.
Many are not. They are well indoctrinated and true believers in their cause, and the Muslim SB has a promise of 72 virgins waiting for him in paradise.

There was a report, some years ago, by a eye witness who survived a Palestinian suicide bomber exploding himself on an Israeli bus: "he got up from his seat holding something in his hand, looked at me and smiled. Then he just exploded. I woke up in the hospital. I will never forget that smile."

Snarki, child of LokiAugust 13, 2014 7:21 AM

"...but their level of mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks."

And this is known, how exactly?

"...able to use the technology to tell the difference between high-blood oxygen levels produced by stress rather than just physical exertion."

Because that's a DIFFERENT kind of oxygen, and that makes all the difference, mmm hmm. Well, okay, if you breath a lot of ozone, I guess you'd get all stressed, but last I heard, suicide bombers don't carry around little tanks of ozone to sniff before while looking for an opportunity to detonate.

We'll just put this technology in the "bozone file".

Kevin August 13, 2014 7:26 AM

What about people that are simply, *gasp*, afraid to fly? Pretty sure the stress levels there would be high.

WooAugust 13, 2014 7:28 AM

So, this tech will detect highly stressed-out individuals, who then will be investigated and/or interrogated, even more increasing their stress level and annoyance. This in turn proves that the original suspicion was correct. He will then be detained indefinitely, and presented to the media as another prevented terrorist attack. Win-Win-Lose situation.

NixAugust 13, 2014 8:00 AM

Even if it works it's an automatic autistic-and-social-phobic detector which then flags them as suspicious possible terrorists. Sheesh. (For that matter, it's an automatic "anyone at all" detector if they've ever been anywhere near Beijing's appalling traffic. Nobody could possibly get through that without getting stressed.)

WinterAugust 13, 2014 8:18 AM

"Chinese scientists are developing a mini-camera to scan crowds for highly stressed individuals, offering law-enforcement officers a potential tool to spot would-be suicide bombers. "

Since when does China have a problem with suicide bombers?

Attacks in China tend to be executed with knives and swords.

I also have the distinct feeling that the ultimate target is not stressed out people, because that is utterly useless.

NebulusAugust 13, 2014 8:49 AM

I think that this snippet from the article gives the real reason they developed this kind of technology for:

"The technology can be used on terrorists, but harmless people such as petitioners and protesters could be the target as well"

JonAugust 13, 2014 8:56 AM

Wow, this system can flag most of Japs.
Seriously, you'll think "WTF" when you visit tokyo railway station.

Especially on 7-10 A.M., many people has a VERY BAD faces because of:
1. Too many people in very small(rabbithouse lol) cottage(train)
2. Many people forced to work too hard - 'karoshi'.
3. Aaand most people smells ugly - not time to take a shower because of work lolf

Come on china! Target those Japs!

Spaceman SpiffAugust 13, 2014 9:07 AM

I can just see it now. I had an argument with my wife (which after 40 years of marriage is not uncommon) and am stressed out. I get tagged as a "terrorist" and get shot by some dickhead cop... Ain't life a bitch?

tomAugust 13, 2014 10:15 AM

The Boston Marathon bombers looked pretty calm when they were placing their backpacks.

I'd say the whole premise is wrong.

paulAugust 13, 2014 10:20 AM

It's not theoretically impossible that the pattern of facial blood oxygen produced by stress would be different from that produced by exercise (vasoconstriction vs vasodilation and all that), but who cares. There are so many obvious other things wrong with this idea, from false positives to "if you're a suicide bomber, just run to catch your train".

I wonder if it wasn't just some PR type desperately trying to find a hook that would get "hey, we can use image processing to detect different patterns of oxygenated blood flow on faces" into the news and thereby get points with their bosses.

Clive RobinsonAugust 13, 2014 10:41 AM

@ Spaceman Spliff,

I have an argument with my wife.... I get tagged as a "terrorist" and get shot by some dickhead cop... Ain't life a bitch

Yup then she inherits, gets damages from the police department, and starts living the life she wants. Whilst if you are lucky your ashes are in an urn in a box in the basment with your old ten pin bowling cups and medals (which are just to much effort to throw out or hock). And that shelf they used to have pride of place on in the living room... well you know those awful china figurines she liked but you hated, well there's seven of them there....

Go on smile, it might not come true ;-)

ScottAugust 13, 2014 11:01 AM


"mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks."

Why? is their any research as to how someone is feeling before they explode themselves?

If I thought I was going to heaven *and* striking one back for the "Good" guy's I'd be fairly relaxed. My worry would be getting caught, which at a guess is what your nerves Nelly (not a terrorist just a normal Joe, but one who thinks the scanner will catch the fact they have 110 ml of sun-cream in their bag) is feeling before a security gate.

hoodathunkitAugust 13, 2014 12:02 PM

Most of the recent (decade) splody-dopes are drugged. Even hooking them up to wires won't work, their bio- and neurological systems are deliberately altered.

MuffinAugust 13, 2014 12:38 PM

I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you on this one, Bruce. This doesn't border on ridiculous, this IS ridiculous - it's so far into ridiculous territory it's come around full circle and gone into ridiculous territory AGAIN.

kiwanoAugust 13, 2014 12:47 PM

On one hand, I could see this proving to be a really beneficial technology in airport security *IF* secondary screening is handled properly.

Obviously if you're worried about flying, and the TSA pulls you aside for a strip search, or some SWAT-looking goon decides that he needs to have a chat with you, then this technology would be a million kinds of awful.

On the other hand, if the identified targets are approached instead by a friendly, compassionate, unarmed staffer who appreciates that 99.999% of the time they're just dealing with e.g. someone who's afraid of flying, or a business traveller who's worried about the meetings at the other end of the flight, etc. and is tasked primarily with offering emotional support to distressed travellers (and only secondarily with escalating travellers who seem both stressed and hinky), then we might finally find ourselves blessed with the first ever humane airport security measure.

As much as I may be tempted to fear ever more security mechanisms, everywhere, I think it's important to capitalize on this technology as a potential stepping stone towards requirements that security measures be humane.

KarlAugust 13, 2014 1:06 PM

Can we please have this for "horny" instead of "stressed"? No, seriously. Would probably be more useful. (And I don't mean airport security, duh.)

AnonymousCowardAugust 13, 2014 1:36 PM

Technology can not achieve this. If it could, it would be an ineffective practice.

What this does is two things:
A.) Makes people feel safer (security theater)
B.) Provide a convenient legal mechanism for the Chinese government to claim that they have reasonable suspicion.

The middle east uses dowsing rods at search points for the same reason. They want to be able to go into any car and search it. Dowsing rods provide a convenient context.

As intelligence continually comes from illegal mechanisms (ubiquitous surveillance) these types of make believe technologies are going to become more and more important to the governments that need to justify intelligence that they ought not have.

eswanAugust 13, 2014 2:05 PM

Citizen! You are exhibiting signs of stress! Relax immediately! You have 20 seconds to comply! You now have 15 seconds to comply! 10, 9, 8...

vas pupAugust 13, 2014 2:16 PM

Is this device detecting fear-stress or anger-stress or both? Looks like potential of danger is not the same for those types - just for the sake of risk level evaluation. What is the base line for comparison? Is it for particular person or like average temperature in the hospital (intensive care / autopsy departments)?
It may find application (if independently confirmed as valid tool) in prisons to assess inmates, mental facilities, military / LEO /special operation training as well because some stress could be productive for particular activity and particular person (fine tuning of device: not just red face but with some kind of reflection of stress level). Yeah, and business may use it for interview of prospective employees.

fried bananasAugust 13, 2014 2:20 PM

What about remote scanning EEG machines? Then you could have a scientific rationale for thought crime!

Let's see, then everybody can be put on "medication" for their own protection...

Really, I'd make a sci-fi movie reference, but there's been so many with "thought crime" as part of the plot, it's ridiculous.

unhappyApplesAugust 13, 2014 2:22 PM

'..I had an argument with my wife (which after 40 years of marriage is not uncommon) and am stressed out. I get tagged as a "terrorist"'

Ground Control to Spaceman Spiff:

Here are your mission instructions: Upon activating argument with spouse, you will inexplicably refuse to leave the house first and will do whatever is required to encourage the increasingly rage-filled spouse to slam the front door and leave. At this point your mission is complete and you may stand down. At ease Spaceman.

AppSecAugust 13, 2014 2:26 PM

A stress bar above the people they are watching..

It's like a health bar in a video game!

(can't believe I'm the first one to comment on that ;) )

JardaAugust 13, 2014 2:59 PM

Jaysus, all those people who need to pee urgently or even with diarhoea who can't find a toilet....

ChrisAugust 13, 2014 5:58 PM

Psycho-pass immediately came to mind as well. I wonder where they keep their bunker full of brains-in-bottles to do the number crunching :-)

AlexAugust 13, 2014 6:00 PM

The level of stress can be easily lowered chemically, let alone psychotherapy or chinese acupuncture.

Cortisol blockers are freely available.

65535August 14, 2014 12:05 AM

“Most of the recent (decade) splody-dopes are drugged.”- hoodathunkit

I agree.

Look at the Glasgow airport attack where a doctor and his buddy tried to burn it down with gasoline and propane. I would guess the doctor doped his buddy and himself to avoid suffering a painful; fiery death while smashing their burning car into the airport terminal.

“Police indicated the vehicle burst into flames when it was driven at the terminal. An eyewitness noted that a man got out of the car and began to fight with police. Another eyewitness said that the man was throwing punches and repeatedly shouting "Allah". The man was arrested and later identified as Bilal Abdulla, a UK-born doctor of Iraqi descent who was working at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Another man exited the car and ran into the terminal building while he was on fire and began writhing on the ground, before being kicked in the testicles by a member of the public… Sky News reported that petrol was spread from containers by the occupants when they got out of the car.” - Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Glasgow_International_Airport_attack

I don't think the "stress goggles" would have helped - except to magnify the flames from the Jeep's windows.

JREAugust 14, 2014 10:35 AM

I think somebody needs to check their plans. Everything I can find says your blood oxygen content goes DOWN under stress, not up.

NovaAugust 14, 2014 11:23 AM

I am sure that US authorities have been very busy consulting with leaders of China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan for advice about how they can screw their country up even more. So, of course, China has entrepreneurs who are making such technology.

Look at Missouri: 100% white cops against 100% african americans, facing them down with machine guns and military gear. These are the sorts of yokels that would utilize fully automated, armed killer drones. Journalists from major papers are being arrested fraudulently. I am surprised any pictures can be taken.

Reason, logic, thinking, much less morals: no play here. You got an intel industry that has strict, founding laws against unlawful search and seizure rampantly spying on everyone. And you got an armed cadre of cops known to attack their citizens because they likely have small *** and were beat up in HS or something. (What makes a "man" act in such a way? Maybe they play too much Call of Duty and can not tell fact from fiction?)

Stress: the 911 attackers did not have stress. Probably a major reason why they went to titty dancer clubs (against their moral codes) the night before. CIA, and other intel agencies, have people practice going through similar stress choke points way before they do it. And, as others say, obviously, plenty of on market drugs are known to destress people, besides the fact that innocent people are very often stressed at airports for totally legitimate reasons.

But, hey, another toy.

(I am not saying *everyone* in these governments is bad. Hey, even in NK they probably have some good cops and mil.)

Look at Missouri, it really has nothing to do with security or noble reasons, it has to do with power.

AndrewAugust 14, 2014 12:33 PM

> before being kicked in the testicles by a member of the public

I think we just need to deploy more Glaswegians at airports. Security Theatre at it's best!

AnonAugust 14, 2014 1:06 PM

How convenient that this is a "mini-camera".
Easy to clip to the side of their riot helmets, with a flip down display.

Maybe this will be a new feature of future Google-Glass.

(I claim patent royalties for thinking of it!)

Coyne TibbetsAugust 14, 2014 5:32 PM

The only thing that would make this any more ridiculous would be to hook the system output to an automated targeting/execution system.

Just think what a wonderous thing that would be: The first execution would stress everyone out...then the massacre.

After all, more snake oil, rube goldberg automation is always better, right?

Wesley ParishAugust 15, 2014 5:50 AM

@Coyne Tibbets

It's crying out to be linked to the nuclear - so sorry, Dubbya, I meant nucular - targeting system and MonsterMind and anti-aircraft missile systems as well ... I mean, if you can't hit the hypothetical suicide bomber while in the transit lounge, you'd best take out the aircraft he's travelling on, shouldn't you?

Some people are in favour of a Monty Pythonesque Life_Of_Brian-style suicide attack to finish off civilization and life ... it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine! So there!!!

RAugust 16, 2014 6:27 AM

Uh.....I think the "red face" thing is part of the software showing people that are stressed...not that people with red faces are tagged?

As far as false positives introduced by the surveillance itself...reminds me of the issue if distracted driving where everyone is warned against doing things that can cause this...but NO MENTION is ever made of the stress and distraction caused by official and unofficial "tail-gaters" and "cell-phone snitchers" ?

I think the idea is that cops really do not exist...and that they can do no wrong??? The observer NEVER affects the results of the experiment? In a pigs eye....

MoomanAugust 16, 2014 9:46 AM

Well .... this piece of security theater will get me hauled in as I suffer for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and can get really stressed out to the point I suffer panic attacks when preparing to travel.

Thomas_HAugust 16, 2014 5:10 PM

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Why don't they just add all of the following people to their lists of terrorists: People who are afraid of flying, uneasy in crowds, on a stressful business trip, on a stressful family trip, sick, have an abnormal heart rate, autistic and other handicapped people who tend to get stressed in busy places, people who have been running to catch their flight, cops in hot pursuit, people wearing too hot clothes, etc., etc., etc.?

Or perhaps transporting humans by airplanes should just be banned.

SchneieronSecurityFanAugust 17, 2014 1:50 AM

@ G. Bailey - The alcohol flush reaction may not relate to the level of oxygen.

Below is the technology creator's PhD. dissertation from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom:
https://dspace.lib.cranfield.ac.uk/bitstream/1826/7502/1/PhD%20thesisV11bfinal%20correction.pdf

One thing that may throw off this technology is the difference in oxygen usage in aerobically fit vs. aerobically unfit individuals.

The original article from the blog ran in the South China Morning Post - a Hong Kong newspaper that is considered to have a pro-Beijing slant.


A Swiss concern developed an infrared camera with a sensitivity of .1 degree celsius. The visual output could have a different color for each tenth - 36.8, 36.9, 37.0, 37.1, etc. A potential use of this technology would be to scan at a distance a large number of arriving passengers at airports and look for scans of people with the telltale heat signatures for a fever or any other condition.


vas pupAugust 18, 2014 12:00 PM

@SchneieronSecurityFan:
"A Swiss concern developed an infrared camera with a sensitivity of .1 degree celsius. The visual output could have a different color for each tenth - 36.8, 36.9, 37.0, 37.1, etc. A potential use of this technology would be to scan at a distance a large number of arriving passengers at airports and look for scans of people with the telltale heat signatures for a fever or any other condition."
Any link to the source as confirmation? Just asking for Ebola prevention application. Thank you.

Alan StriegelAugust 20, 2014 11:55 AM

As for false positives, would there not be increased stress apparent in anyone who suffers from chronic pain? Imagine the number of innocent folks caught up for no other reason than arthritis or migraine or pinched nerves, etc.

TRXAugust 22, 2014 6:23 AM

The purpose isn't to "detect stress", it is to provide a legal backstop to profiling. "The magic box said they might be a threat." Okay, whack him then.

EphraiyimSeptember 6, 2014 6:48 PM

Whether it actually works is beside the point. The really frightening thing is that, since it will likely have many false positives, the Chinese (and whoever else would deploy it) will be harassing people and, possibly imprisoning them sim as if they have a pre-crime type detention as in "Minority Report". That's frigging scary as hell!

CarlosSeptember 7, 2014 8:43 AM

"if you breath a lot of ozone, I guess you'd get all stressed"

And dead.

Also, carrying ozone in tanks is a really bad idea. It will explode if you look at it funny.

Ozone is pretty nasty stuff.

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