Thermal Imaging as Security Theater
Seems like thermal imaging is the security theater technology of today.
These features are so tempting that thermal cameras are being installed at an increasing pace. They’re used in airports and other public transportation centers to screen travelers, increasingly used by companies to screen employees and by businesses to screen customers, and even used in health care facilities to screen patients. Despite their prevalence, thermal cameras have many fatal limitations when used to screen for the coronavirus.
- They are not intended for medical purposes.
- Their accuracy can be reduced by their distance from the people being inspected.
- They are “an imprecise method for scanning crowds” now put into a context where precision is critical.
- They will create false positives, leaving people stigmatized, harassed, unfairly quarantined, and denied rightful opportunities to work, travel, shop, or seek medical help.
- They will create false negatives, which, perhaps most significantly for public health purposes, “could miss many of the up to one-quarter or more people infected with the virus who do not exhibit symptoms,” as the New York Times recently put it. Thus they will abjectly fail at the core task of slowing or preventing the further spread of the virus.