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Tuesday, 13 October 2009 19:22

DHS will be doing the wii shuffle

In yet another attempt to avoid good ol' policing, The Department of Homeland (in)Security is looking at using Wii-fit boards to detect nervousness in air passengers.

According to reports the DHS' long-running project "Future Attribute Screening Technology" has produced another triumph.  They propose using the Wii-fit boards to detect the nervous shuffling of potential terrorists as part of the screening technology at airports.

You can't make this stuff up!

Commenters to another report make all the usual jibes.  To summarise a couple of them: clearly terrorists will be rushing out to buy the device to practice; and make sure you go to the toilet before attempting to pass through security.

The CNN report quotes an official suggesting that the results were "significantly better than chance".  

So?  Let's play with some numbers.  What if one air traveller in a million was a terrorist intending to blow up a plane (or worse!).  In this context, what would ‘chance' be?  Obviously to identify any one person in that million as a terrorist.  

"Significantly better than chance" could be as simple as ruling half those people out and having a one in five hundred thousand chance!  Even if it gave results that were statistically highly significant, we might be able to narrow down the search to perhaps three people in 100. 

In fact, there are hundreds of millions of air passengers every year and FAR fewer than one in a million is a terrorist; I don't recommend introducing three percent of all passengers to a full cavity search merely because they couldn't keep their balance.

People, this is not the way!  If you leave it to the very last moment to seek terrorists – as close as possible to their intended target, you are going to lose a significant number of times.  As many people have commented, here for instance, the terrorists only have to be lucky once, airline security has to be lucky all the time.  Really, there is no substitute for good old police detective work – that is the best use of resources by far.

As my wife noted, next we'll see the Wii-fit boards being used by American police for sobriety tests.  Good luck with that!

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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