I already blogged this once: an airplane-seat camera system that tries to detect terrorists before they leap up and do whatever they were planning on doing. Amazingly enough, the EU is “testing” this system:
Each camera tracks passengers’ facial expressions, with the footage then analysed by software to detect developing terrorist activity or potential air rage. Six wide-angle cameras are also positioned to monitor the plane’s aisles, presumably to catch anyone standing by the cockpit door with a suspiciously crusty bread roll.
But since people never sit still on planes, the software’s also designed so that footage from multiple cameras can be analysed. So, if one person continually walks from his seat to the bathroom, then several cameras can be used to track his facial movements.
The software watches for all sorts of other terrorist-like activities too, including running in the cabin, someone nervously touching their face or excessive sweating. An innocent nose scratch won’t see the F16s scrambled, but a combination of several threat indicators could trigger a red alert.
This pegs the stupid meter. All it will do is false alarm. No one has any idea what sorts of facial characteristics are unique to terrorists. And how in the world are they “testing” this system without any real terrorists? In any case, what happens when the alarm goes off? How exactly is a ten-second warning going to save people?
Sure, you can invent a terrorist tactic where a system like this, assuming it actually works, saves people—but that’s the very definition of a movie-plot threat. How about we spend this money on something that’s effective in more than just a few carefully chosen scenarios?
Posted on June 4, 2008 at 12:05 PM •
Ross Anderson, Rainer Böhme, Richard Clayton, and Tyler Moore have published a major report on security and economics: “Security, Economics, and the Internal Market,” published by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA). It’s 114 pages long, and I just printed it out to read.
Posted on March 13, 2008 at 6:05 AM •
I’ve already written about secret forensic codes embedded in color laser printers. Seems like these codes may breach European privacy laws.
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 5:50 AM •
The 2007 International Privacy Ranking.
Canada comes in first.
Individual privacy is best protected in Canada but under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released Saturday.
Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.
Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of “endemic surveillance societies.”
EDITED TO ADD (1/10): Actually, Canada comes in second.
Posted on January 10, 2008 at 6:01 AM •
The Norwegian Ministry of Transportation asked the EU to lift the liquid ban on airplanes.
This ban is annoying for the travellers and a large cost for society, and we need to examine if the benefits are in relation to the cost.
And the European Parliament agreed:
The House adopted a resolution with 464 votes in favour, 158 against and 70 abstentions on the restrictions imposed by the EU on liquids that passengers can take on board aeroplanes. MEPs call upon the Commission to review urgently and—if no further conclusive facts are brought forward—to repeal Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006 (introduction of liquids onto aircraft). The particular amendment on the possible repeal was adopted with 382 votes in favour, 298 against and 15 abstentions.
Security is a trade-off; makes sense to me.
EDITED TO ADD (10/11): Unfortunately the European Parliament is powerless; their decisions are regularly ignored. In this case, the European Commission has the real power.
Posted on September 18, 2007 at 6:32 AM •
A recently completed Dutch study of 242 Islamic radicals convicted or accused of planning terrorist attacks in Europe from 2001 to 2006 found that most were men of Arab descent who had been born and raised in Europe and came from lower or middle-class backgrounds. They ranged in age from 16 to 59 at the time of their arrests; the average was 27. About one in four had a criminal record.
The author of the study, Edwin Bakker, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, tried to examine almost 20 variables concerning the suspects’ social and economic backgrounds. In general, he determined that no reliable profile existed—their traits were merely an accurate reflection of the overall Muslim immigrant population in Europe. “There is no standard jihadi terrorist in Europe,” the study concluded.
In an interview, Bakker said that many local police agencies have been slow to abandon profiling, but that most European intelligence agencies have concluded it is an unreliable tool for spotting potential terrorists. “How can you single them out? You can’t,” he said. “For the secret services, it doesn’t give them a clue. We should focus more on suspicious behavior and not profiling.”
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 5:42 PM •
This is a good summary of the SWIFT privacy case:
This week, the Article 29 group—a panel of European Commissioners for Freedom, Security, and Justice—ruled that the interbank money transfer service SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) has failed to respect the provisions of the EU Data Protection directive by transferring personal financial data to the US in a manner the press release describes as “hidden, systematic, massive, and long-term.”
Posted on February 13, 2007 at 7:49 AM •
Interesting story of a British journalist buying 20 different fake EU passports. She bought a genuine Czech passport with a fake name and her real picture, a fake Latvian passport, and a stolen Estonian passport.
Despite information on stolen passports being registered to a central Interpol database, her Estonian passport goes undetected.
Note that harder-to-forge RFID passports would only help in one instance; it’s certainly not the most important problem to solve.
Also, I am somewhat suspicious of this story. I don’t know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime—and I don’t think being a reporter would be an adequate defense.
Posted on December 5, 2006 at 1:38 PM •
Fascinating essay about how EU law would treat the NSA’s collection of everyone’s phone records.
Posted on June 2, 2006 at 7:20 AM •
From the ACLU:
In 2003, the United States and the European Union reached an agreement under which the EU would share Passenger Name Record (PNR) data with the U.S., despite the lack of privacy laws in the United States adequate to ensure Europeans’ privacy. In return, DHS agreed that the passenger data would not be used for any purpose other than preventing acts of terrorism or other serious crimes. It is now clear that DHS did not abide by that agreement.
Posted on May 8, 2006 at 6:34 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.