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Fear Detector To Sniff Out Terrorists 342

Posted by timothy
from the interesting-assumptions dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Evidence that the smell of fear is real was uncovered by US scientists last year who studied the underarm secretions of 20 terrified novice skydivers and found that people appear to respond unconsciously to the sweat smell of a frightened person. Now the Telegraph reports that researchers hope a 'fear detector' will make it possible to identify individuals at check points who are up to no good. 'The challenge lies in the characterization and identification of the specific chemical that gives away the signature of human fear, especially the fear in relation to criminal acts,' says Professor Tong Tun at City University London, who leads the team developing security sensor systems that can detect the human fear pheromone. The project will look at potential obstacles to the device, such as the effects of perfume and the variances in pheromone production and if the initial 18-month feasibility study is successful, the first detectors could be developed in the next two to three years. 'I do not see any particular reason why similar sensor techniques cannot be expanded to identify human smells by race, age or gender to build a profile of a criminal during or after an incident,' Tong added."
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Fear Detector To Sniff Out Terrorists

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  • by the_one(2) (1117139) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:16AM (#30004798)

    ... or people who are afraid of being suspected of terrorism

  • by unitron (5733) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:17AM (#30004802) Homepage Journal

    What if the fear they detect in you is the fear of missing your flight while you're held up trying to convince security that you aren't a threat?

  • Yeah, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FlyByPC (841016) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:17AM (#30004806) Homepage
    If you have a true religious fanatic, who is looking forward to dying for a cause he believes in -- and is looking forward to eternity in the paradise-of-his-choice for his actions, would he* still show physiological signs of fear?

    * (I think statistically, "he" is a fair generalization here.)
  • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:19AM (#30004830) Homepage Journal

    Or people who are afraid of flying?

  • But worry not! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlackSash (1420967) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:20AM (#30004834)

    People that are afraid of flying (or more accurately, crashing) will not need to worry about being picked out of the line for 'smelling suspiscious'! Not at all...

  • This is so true.

    All a fear detector detects is fear. Not intent or cause. Once they realize how many people are afraid in airports, they will quickly scrap this stupid idea.

  • Oops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dissy (172727) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:22AM (#30004854)

    Now the Telegraph reports that researchers hope a 'fear detector'' will make it possible to identify individuals at check points who are up to no good.

    What about us law abiding citizens who are only afraid that our governments checkpoint workers are up to no good?

    It is already a very real possibility for one of those people to make up any type of claim they want and detail you without letting you speak to a lawyer nor involve any courts.
    The reason given can be as ridiculous as 'He had terrorist looking hair' and still be valid. Plenty of legit reason to be afraid of those people.

    Not to mention the fact I have no doubt at least a subset of these checkpoints will be at places where fear is natural (IE airports, fear of flying, or fear of falling out of the sky in a fireball)

    Will deodorant and perfume be classified as a terrorist munition now?

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:22AM (#30004858)

    The idea that there's a special chemical signal for "fear in relation to criminal acts" seems to come out of absolutely nowhere. Shouldn't there be some research into whether such a chemical signal exists before device development occurs? If it's not a magic detector of latent emotion or the cause of emotion so I'm not sure how much better it would be than noticing which people "look a bit afraid". It's going to be just as susceptible to picking up people who find flying difficult or are worried about being falsely accused of being a terrorist because they look funny.

  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:23AM (#30004864)
    They decided people weren't taking FDR's warning seriously enough so they'd give us a damn good reason to fear fear itself.
  • waste of time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by runyonave (1482739) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:24AM (#30004868)
    Do scientist have nothing better to do nowadays. Fear is an emotiona that could be the result of hundreds of different causes. Fear from stress, fear of losing money, fear of an individual, fear of going to an intervew etc, etc. How do these scientist aim to differentiate fear of criminal activity from other causes. Waste of time.
  • Re:Yeah, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:24AM (#30004870)

    No, but the guy who's afraid that such a person is on the flight will be. These persons will be detected and prevented from boarding, thus they avoid the imagined risk. It's added value for the neurotic!

  • More profiling... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbope (130292) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:27AM (#30004894)

    Great, just what we need, more profiling in place of real security. And just how is this supposed to work with psychopaths who do not experience the emotion of fear?

  • by dissy (172727) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:27AM (#30004900)

    All a fear detector detects is fear. Not intent or cause. Once they realize how many people are afraid in airports, they will quickly scrap this stupid idea.

    Unfortunately that is probably exactly what they want.

    This device is 'scientific proof' (AKA the computer said so) for arresting any one of 90% of the people there that they might want to arrest for some reason.

    Think dousing rods here. It's an enforcement departments wet dream.

  • by rotide (1015173) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:32AM (#30004940)

    1: Develop System to detect when someone is "afraid"

    2: Let citizens know that those who are "afraid" will be detected, detained and questioned for "citizen safety".

    3: Citizens are now afraid to go through on the idea that maybe they will somehow set off the alarm.

    Tons of false positives. After the first story of a false positive, some people become afraid of being a false positive as well. As more and more stories of false positives arise, more and more people become afraid and become more false positives.

  • by denzacar (181829) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:35AM (#30004962) Journal

    Detect terrorists, that is.

    Not while there are anti-anxiety drugs out there.
    What you will detect is a bunch of false positives that will keep you busy "detecting" while trucks loaded with bags of ammonium-nitrate explosive merrily (but calmly) pass you by.

  • by somersault (912633) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:37AM (#30004972) Homepage Journal

    Or people who are nervous about their big business meeting, or meeting their possible future in-laws, etc etc

  • Doubleplusgood? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shienarier (185368) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:38AM (#30004980) Homepage

    Isn't this a step towards thought crime?
    "He's scared, arrest him!"

  • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:38AM (#30004986)

    Who said they'd be limited to airports?

    will make it possible to identify individuals at check points

  • Re:Profit!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RKThoadan (89437) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:38AM (#30004988)

    If this is really put into use I guarantee you that pranksters will be doing exactly that. They don't even care about the Profit!!!! They'll do it just for the lulz.

  • Re:Oops (Score:3, Insightful)

    by throbber (72924) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:42AM (#30005020)

    Will deodorant and perfume be classified as a terrorist munition now?

    They already are.
    Have you tried carring deodorant and perfume in your hand luggage recently?

  • by tapanitarvainen (1155821) on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:52AM (#30005098)
    Guess it would work best in reverse: people who are *not* afraid are obvious psychopaths...
  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:59AM (#30005162) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile the guy with a box cutter and a few pounds of C4 smells horny (for his 70 virgins) not fearful.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:02AM (#30005186) Homepage Journal

    And there are people who can be calm under any circumstance. If you're full of opiates you don't care about (or fear) anything. Then there's "liquid courage" at the airport bar.

    This smells like failure.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:08AM (#30005240)

    A number of false positives reported in the media, and everybody will fear that machine...

  • by Spatial (1235392) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:13AM (#30005284)
    Almost everything.
  • by darthflo (1095225) * on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:15AM (#30005302)

    Even without anti-anxiety drugs, can anybody confirm that the kind of terrorist who actually pulls off attacks will be fearful? I could very well imagine them being as calm as can be, completely convinced what they're doing is the right thing. After all, standing there with a bomb strapped to your chest pretty much implies you believe in that "heaven with 71 virgins" delusion, no matter if you take out a couple hundred civilians or just two guards, it's martyrdom and it's spoils (mostly spoiled intestines hanging everywhere) for you.

  • by sherpajohn (113531) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:22AM (#30005348) Homepage

    Usually for these loss of freedom stories, we get the bleated "If you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing to be afraid of" response. Where is it? Wait, what's that I smell? Scared sheeple?

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:29AM (#30005400)

    It should stop the rogue unprepared school shooting type person.

    Or cause them to shoot the guard manning it. I've never felt 'safer' in a building with a metal detector. I've certainly felt less free.

  • by pehrs (690959) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:32AM (#30005432)

    Why is the terrorist supposed to be afraid? Many of them have trained for years to do the hijacking, and fear is not what those who survived described. Besides, many of the terrorists here in Europe have been taking drugs to ensure top performance. So what you are looking for is not somebody scared out of his pants. You are looking for a calm professional on benzedrine.

  • by db32 (862117) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:32AM (#30005434) Journal
    Are you kidding, that would be perfect. I mean really...watching DHS traumatize a bunch of already frightened travelers. Oh this is going to be awesome! Afraid of flying, afraid of traveling alone, claustrophobic, business travelers afraid of giving the presentation they are being sent to do, every week sees groups of people traveling to military bases to start basic training and I bet most of them are pretty afraid of how it may go. The possibilities are endless! This is going to be so awesome.

    Especially when we arrest the arabic man who was just nervous about introducing his girlfriend to his parents.
  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:41AM (#30005506)

    Basically, we just spent a bunch of money to get worse results and create more chaos.

    Well then I'm sure somebody somewhere is wearing a satisfied smile and telling themselves "my work is done here!"

  • by MadnessASAP (1052274) <madnessasap@gmail.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:49AM (#30005578)

    In away your right, from what I understand suicide bombers aren't even remotely afraid or even consider what they are doing to be anything but gods holy work. They probably wont even register in the slightest on these detectors. Whereas the people who are worried about receiving securities own special "enema" will be.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:51AM (#30005598) Journal

    Being afraid isn't a crime, nor is it probable cause for a search.

    -jcr

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:55AM (#30005640)

    Nobody said they'd be limited to airports.

    It's just that a fear of flying isn't normally a problem when the checkpoint is at the railway station or a border crossing. ;-)

     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @11:03AM (#30005720)

    Or people who are afraid of being felt up by the security theater guys?

    Or people who are afraid that their luggage will be stolen by the security theater guys?

    Or people who are afraid that the security theater guys that steal their luggage might also be bribed to look the other way for other criminals, like terrorists?

  • by TheCarp (96830) * <`ten.tenaprac' `ta' `cjs'> on Friday November 06, 2009 @11:04AM (#30005732) Homepage

    That is exactly what I would assume to be the case. Though there may be the fear of getting caught but... I doubt it. I think the false positive rate on anything like this is going to be through the roof.

    Frankly, I will laugh and hoot the first time someone is awarded a huge sum because of the trauma they experienced when their panic disorder brings on the start of an attack and trips off the sensor. Because, as we all know, being suddenly pulled aside by a person in uniform is exactly the sort of thing that a person having an uncontrollable panic attack needs to calm them down. The sort of ham handed treatment typical of people who feel that someone paying them and putting them in a silly uniform gives them the right to harass other people is exactly the sort of thing that will really move their treatment forward.

    Terrorism is a largely imaginary threat. Panic disorder is a real and debilitating disorder.

    I am seriously against damaging real people to catch imaginary ones.

    -Steve

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday November 06, 2009 @11:04AM (#30005734) Journal

    I just noticed this: "Your subject has negative warrants for arrest and negative prior history. He does have a valid oil land(?) that expires 2014." What the frak? They have a central computer to track all our history, even in foreign states that are 1000 miles away from where we live? Dang.

    Other annoyances:

    - "Why do you have this money?"
    - "What's your occupation?"
    - "It's not a matter of the law." - The Constitution is the law. It specifically forbids this type of detainment unless a judge okays it.
    - "You're acting like a child." - No he's acting like a liberated person. Slavery ended 150 years ago. Liberated people have no masters and have the right to remain silent.
    - "I don't have to let you travel." - The U.S. government official is violating the inalienable right to travel freely across the Union of states. (See SCOTUS cases.)
    - "We'll have to take him down to the station and let the DEA and FBI question him..... we'll find out if you stole this money." - Wow. He's carrying lots of money, so suddenly he's an expected drug dealer or user? We have to involve the DEA??? I guess it's not safe to go on vacation anymore.
    "What's Campaign for Liberty?" - that's something that doesn't exist anymore

    Like I said before rather than play games with these goose-stepping thugs, I'd simply exercise my Miranda rights and shut up. That's what I did when I was detained in Texas. They wanted to search the trunk of my car. I refused. They held me in the cold night air for an hour asking questions and demanding the trunk be opened, and I refused to talk. Finally let me go. It's bullshit that officers think they can detain a guy on vacation and search his trunk without a warrant. (SCOTUS has confirmed they can not.)

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:19PM (#30006408) Homepage Journal
    I'd have thought a bit of "Dutch courage" would have a similar effect.
  • by Golddess (1361003) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:03PM (#30006826)
    While the first two are perhaps ambiguous (although why are you clicking unknown links at work?), with a name like nakedgirls4.jpg, you can't honestly have expected puppies and kittens, could you?
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:34PM (#30007156) Homepage

    Terrorism is a real threat, it's just nowhere near as large a threat as some would make it out to be.

    Yeah, well, we're talking about airport terrorist screening here. Terrorism on airplanes is pretty much over. The idea that we need to protect against guys getting on with box cutters is absolutely ludicrous. If anything, the shift in public perception of hijacking should have allowed a relaxing of security at airports, as the passengers will immediately hogtie, pummel, and sedate [wikipedia.org] any idiot dumb enough to try anything. Really, the only thing left to look out for is explosives, and that's a fairly simple chemistry problem. All this shit with taking off shoes, smelling us for fear, and peering through our clothes with machines is expensive security theater to mitigate a problem that's already been solved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:19PM (#30007562)

    In away your right, from what I understand suicide bombers aren't even remotely afraid or even consider what they are doing to be anything but gods holy work.

    They are people, too. Humans who their religion, peer pressure, status in society (you don't see wealthy businessmen blowing themselves up), etc. has forced to do something horrible. While they are doing something really bad, they are still humans and have emotions.

    What do you think that a person thinks before blowing himself up in the middle of a crowd? Among people, some of whom might remind them of their own familymembers, for example? Maybe they have doubts about whether what they are doing is right or not (they have been told that it is right, but is it...). Maybe they are thinking of those family members who the'll never see again but who will be financially provided by the terrorist organization. Maybe they are thinking about surrendering to the officials while knowing that they will be no doubt thrown to jail for the rest of their life (with no fair trial) even if they do so (and their families might starve then). Maybe they are thinking what will happen if they get caught, can't push the button and certainly will neither get to heaven or get their families provided with...

    Religious or not, these are humans we are talking about. They might do horrible things when the circumstances force them to but even then, they do have emotions.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:31PM (#30007692) Homepage Journal

    A terrorist is going to be a LOT more afraid of getting on that plane and detonating a bomb on it,

    And there is the fallacious assumption of your entire argument. You assume that there even are people trying to get on planes with bombs these days. Further more, you assume that there are enough of those people, in comparison to innocent travelers, to pose a significant risk. Honestly, how many airplane hijackings/terrorist acts have you heard of since 9/11? Any 'terrorist' (or activist or freedom fighter or whatever) that has any shred of intelligence whatsoever is not going to be trying to use airplanes for terror attacks after 9/11. It is unoriginal, and therefore risky. I would wager (no, its not fact, I know that) that the next significant report of terrorism (meaning X many people died) is going to come in some form of an attack that was completely unexpected and unaccounted for.

    Beefing up airport security to extremely high levels (some security is necessary and should exist) is a very flashy attempt to close a barn door, lock it, nail-board it shut, and put a bomb shelter around it after the horse has already left.

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