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Prototype EU Airplane Spy Cams Watch For Facecrime 359

Posted by kdawson
from the no-sweating-zone dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "You can't make stuff like this up. The EU is actually testing a prototype system of cameras in airplanes to monitor passengers' facial expressions in order to detect both terrorism and 'air rage.' The Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project used an Airbus A380 fuselage with six wide-angle cameras to watch for people running or loitering near the cockpit door, as well as a camera in the back of every seat to watch for facecrime like sweating too much, or acting nervous. But that's okay, because the system won't alert anyone until it sees a 'combination of signs,' instead of just one stray expression, or they might accidentally catch a lot of people who are afraid of flying or of being watched."
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Prototype EU Airplane Spy Cams Watch For Facecrime

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  • Right, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:20AM (#23599217)
    because perpetrators wouldn't ever be calm or completely resigned to their fate/choice.
    • Re:Right, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:30AM (#23599379) Journal

      Indeed. I love this theory that someone who is mentally prepared to kill themselves is going to break out in a cold sweat beforehand and give themselves away.

      How many people are going to be labeled as terrorists because their facial expressions show annoyance due to the screaming baby with the ear infection sitting directly behind them?

      • Re:Right, (Score:5, Funny)

        by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:44AM (#23599573)
        Exactly. This system is more likely to catch a bunch of nervous kids trying to work up the courage to ask out the cute girl in the next row over, not attack the cockpit for the glory of Allah.

        (No offense to Allah, he probably made the cute girl in the next row.)

        • > a camera in the back of every seat to watch for facecrime
          > like sweating too much, or acting nervous

          "Hey, that guy is sweating like a pig. He may be about to leap up and attack!"

          "Nah, look at his wife's hand. He's just joining the Mile High Club."
        • Re:Right, (Score:5, Funny)

          by turgid (580780) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:47AM (#23599619) Journal

          Silly nervous kids! If they blew themselves up for the glory of Allah, he would guarantee them 72 cute virgin girls all to themselves for eternity in paradise.

          Talking of which, every time Mustafa blows himself up, 72 innocent virgins die, by definition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          This is not about catching the followers of Emmanuel Goldstein. The ROI is very poor. No one is spending this money to make YOU safer - but rather to make you more CONTROLLED.

          The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were b

    • Re:Right, (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hoplite3 (671379) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:56AM (#23599757)
      I think it's perfectly reasonable that such a face cam could flag some terrorists, even if it doesn't flag them all. From that limited perspective, it's an effective tool.

      But I think it's shit for two other reasons that often don't enter into the analysis of the buerocrats:

      1) It dehumanizes the passengers. I'm willing to accept some risks so that I'm not monitored by computers. I think many people feel the same.

      2) It will CERTAINLY generate many false positives. Then some functionary will have to check out each false positive. That person's time will be spent tending the bad-face-machine instead of being more intelligent about watching for threats. This sort of thing ultimately makes me less safe.

      And for a good example of (2) in action right now: the liquid and gel restrictions. I was flying to meet some friends for a hiking trip. I checked by big pack, but decided to carry on my daypack since it was just a small backpack like I usually carry-on. But I had previously packed my daypack with usual hiking stuff, including a 3" knife and a tube of sunscreen. When they pulled me aside at the xray, I immediately realized I had inadvertently taken my nice knife to the x-ray ... but my fear was for nothing. They were so worried about my 8 oz tube of sunscreen that they completely missed the knife. I threw out the tube and carried my knife on board. Needless to say, I checked everything on the flight back :)
      • Re:Right, (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:43AM (#23600465)

        2) It will CERTAINLY generate many false positives. Then some functionary will have to check out each false positive. That person's time will be spent tending the bad-face-machine instead of being more intelligent about watching for threats. This sort of thing ultimately makes me less safe.
        Not only that, but it will become "The boy who cried wolf." I can see the false positive rate on this being quite high. After dozens (hundreds?) of false positives and lawsuits from people wrongly harassed etc. it will end up being ignored. Even if it is right occasionally, it won't matter.
      • by aepervius (535155) on Friday May 30, 2008 @02:35PM (#23602569)
        "I think it's perfectly reasonable that such a face cam could flag some terrorists, even if it doesn't flag them all. From that limited perspective, it's an effective tool. "

        Due to cheer numbers, the false positive rate will generate more people than the positive identification rate, and that is not even counting the possible false negative rate. To give you an example let us say you have 99.99% effectiveness, that is 0.01% false positive. Out of 1 million pax, this is 100 pax. Now let us say you have a 10% false negative (guy trained to not sweat even knowing he will die) which is quite reasonable. If you have 10 terrorist out of 1 million pax, that means you will have 100 false negative, 9 correct, 1 false negative. And that is even really counted in FAVOR of this system. Knowing the number of pax transported by year, and the potential number of terrorist, I would dare say it is more like 100.000 false positive, 9 correct a false negative. In other word a UTTER money waste.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)

      because perpetrators wouldn't ever be calm or completely resigned to their fate/choice.

      And people with a fear of flying wouldn't ever be nervous or agitated.

      Wow, those long wait on the runway are going to get interesting. Will Wesley Snipes' stunt double cut his way in through the roof to take out the guy in 27B/B? I say "on the runway" because presumably that's the only useful time to identify and confront Mr Twitchy, unless the intention is to sound a little chime and ask the passengers to form a ly

  • guess I have a use for all those old 3oz bottles of white out now.
  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:21AM (#23599241) Homepage
    The A380 is a long haul aircraft and there isn't a lot to do up front with automated cockpits. So in the interests of "security", the pilots will probably "monitor" the cameras ... keeping a particularly close eye on attractive females. And how long until the first footage of the Mile High Club shows up on YouTube?

    One of my all-time favorite "caught in the act" via webcam was Duncan Grisby using the opensource motion program to catch a burgler in his flat [grisby.org] - technical details [grisby.org] of his setup.

    Speaking of cams, here is a nifty BirdCam of House Finches [watching-grass-grow.com] - look for baby chicks.
    • Sort of how the security guards at one place I worked at (a DoD lab) started using the employee database to look up cute female employees and make personal remarks to them out of the blue or even call them at home.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pthor1231 (885423)
      Especially interesting, because what are the pilots going to do if they spot a "terrorist" in flight? Get the flight attendants to tie him up and throw him in cargo storage?
  • For fuck sakes... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vectronic (1221470)
    thats all I have to say.
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:22AM (#23599257)
    Find what makes it tick and have as many people do "facecrime" or whatever gobbledygook they call it. 30 people doing something weird (not illegal and not evil) would do some funny things on an airplane.

    I'm thinking of something like that Improv group in New York City and their shenanigans.
  • Sales of Sharpies and other black magic markers that can be used to black out airplane seat cameras increased in the EU today.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:40AM (#23599503) Homepage

      Sales of Sharpies and other black magic markers that can be used to black out airplane seat cameras increased in the EU today.

      Well, unless you carefully black out the camera before you sit, they'll have a picture of your face. Since the airline knows who was sitting in a seat, they know who you are anyway. If cameras start dropping off-line, and if they're monitored in real time, don't you think someone will notice?

      Do you really not think that it will be a criminal offense to tamper with the airline safety system? And, clearly, people with good intentions would never do such a thing, so they'll presume you had bad intentions from the start.

      I simply can't believe that they'd neither catch your nor fail to charge you with something. I'm not in favor of being on camera while in flight (I think it's an appalling idea), but I don't imagine the powers that be will react nicely to people mucking about with their security toys.

      People seriously pondering something like this should accept the fact that their principled stand might find themselves in some trouble.

      Cheers
      • by jcwren (166164)
        We could all wear Richard Nixon masks...
      • by hacker (14635)

        Do you really not think that it will be a criminal offense to tamper with the airline safety system? And, clearly, people with good intentions would never do such a thing, so they'll presume you had bad intentions from the start.

        My boarding would look like this:

        1. Grab my printed boarding pass and baggage
        2. Board the plane
        3. Find my seat
        4. Look at the seat back
        5. Observe the camera there
        6. Gather my bags and other items
        7. Demand to be let off the plane.

          If 1/2 of every flight began doing this, you can bet they'd ch

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:05AM (#23599883) Homepage

          Demand to be let off the plane.

          If 1/2 of every flight began doing this, you can bet they'd change the rules (or they'd hide the cameras elsewhere, like they do behind the CRT monitor glass at the ATM machines now)

          For starters, I can't imagine you could get half of the people on an A380 to stir up that kind of shit. It's a big plane, and most people aren't that politically concerned.

          I have no idea if you can easily request to be let off the plane or not. There are very strict rules to ensure that you can't have checked baggage that flies when you don't. They could conceivably have to empty the cargo hold to find your bag. If you kick up too big of a stink, well, disruptive passengers get arrested and can get fined for flight disruptions.

          Activism is good. I'm sure someone will do the kinds of things you're suggesting -- I'm just saying, once you start messing about in airports/planes, you enter into a whole new level of ways to get into trouble.

          Don't undertake such acts without seriously thinking if that is the best way to achieve your point and not end up in some serious legal troubles. The consequences could be well beyond what you're prepared to deal with.

          Cheers
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by easyTree (1042254)

            you enter into a whole new level of ways to get into trouble.

            This is the problem. They force all manner of bullshit on us and set up laws to make it illegal to have a low tolerance to their bullshit. Then, the rest of the sheep who don't even notice that there's a problem enforce your punishment. It sucks. I just cannot get across how much it sucks. All of it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cliffski (65094)
          easier solution:

          Don't Fly.

          Flying is noisy, uncomfortable, irritating, you get overcharged, patronised, lied to and sometimes they lose your luggage. you get delayed, people try to sell you lottery tickets and alcohol (on a plane ffs). The food is inedible. the seating is awkward and has no legroom.
          Plus it fucks up the environment.

          Sleeper Trains FTW.
      • The facial recognition will be happy.

        Seriously though, I get the feeling this is just research, not a real plan (though the "cameras in the isles" is perfectly believable...)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        People seriously pondering something like this should accept the fact that their principled stand might find themselves in some trouble.

        some 200+ years ago, some yanks threw some tea into the water. I think they caught hell for it, too. but in the long run, everyone was better off.

        some indian guy, in our century, also did something disobedient. I seem to remember its outcome was positive even though individuals did catch some hell for it, in the short run.

        is our freedom to NOT be watched every damned min
  • Like flying much? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:22AM (#23599265) Homepage Journal
    Wow, sounds like a sure fire way to keep people from flying. Already flying is becoming too much of a hassle for many people flying for both business and pleasure and the competition will be trains, automobiles and the Internet. Generally speaking flying outside the US has been more pleasant until recently, but I may try and fly even less from here on out both foreign and domestic.
    • by pablomme (1270790) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:44AM (#23599575)

      the competition will be trains, automobiles and the Internet
      Yeah, I too prefer to email myself everywhere these days.
      • by lilomar (1072448)
        Ray Kurzweil? Is that you?
      • Yeah, I too prefer to email myself everywhere these days.

        the fragmentation and out-of-order packet delivery is a REAL BITCH, I'll have to tell you.

        parts of my left arm and my right big toe are still not here yet. harumph!

        no more internets-based travel for me. no more.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ikkonoishi (674762)
        The whole digitization thing is a pain though. What with all the giant laser dividing you up in cubes and all. Also the spandex uniform [tronguy.net] you have to wear is not easy on the ego. Though it is pretty cool how the flight attendants worship you like a god and you get inexplicable superpowers.
    • by MrMr (219533)
      Flying was never intended for the unwashed masses anyway. In a couple of years only select members of the ruling class will be allowed to board a plane.
  • by l2718 (514756) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:23AM (#23599279)
    Well, we all realize it's very important for everyone (especially young children) to learn that being watched at all places and all times is normal and important for the functioning of civilizations. Airplane cabins are a convenient place to start since some people are sufficiently scared of flying to accept surveilance there.
    • Well, we all realize it's very important for everyone (especially young children) to learn that being watched at all places and all times is normal and important for the functioning of civilizations. Airplane cabins are a convenient place to start since some people are sufficiently scared of flying to accept surveilance there.

      Indeed. For the children's sake alone, I think it's best that I compile the list of some helpful tips to best aid all good citizens in this important time of transition from the law

      • by Grym (725290) *

        I forgot to capitalize "Homeland" in my third tip. This was truly a mistake, and I apologize to any who were offended. I have already self-reported this infraction of Emergency Order 158-F but if anyone else feels compelled to also report this, I understand.

        -Grym

    • plus, well, they're starting to run out of things to DO for security theater.

      just like wallstreet, the 'security' has to keep increasing or the 'investors' get edgy.

      have you seen security theater go DOWN at all? I haven't. I've only seen rights go away, not any of them come back.

      its slow-cooking of the frog (or lobster) but its also despairation since there's little they have NOT already done 'for show'.
  • by wattrlz (1162603)

    How does it deal with people who are upset at being watched and have to pee? (there's usually a bathroom up by the cockpit)

    • by morcheeba (260908)
      Please don't use the bathroom. If you use the bathroom, the terrorist win.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Please don't use the bathroom. If you use the bathroom, the terrorist win.

        Yes, you should just pee in your seat. That'll learn 'em. ;-)

        Cheers
  • Two questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:27AM (#23599337) Journal
    1. How much does all of this equipment weigh?

    2. If it detects a terrorist attack, what can anyone do about it while the plane is in the air?
    • by wattrlz (1162603)

      1. How much does all of this equipment weigh?

      Probably not too much, but they could always use it as an excuse to lower the amount of luggage one may take on a flight.

      2. If it detects a terrorist attack, what can anyone do about it while the plane is in the air?

      Most terrorist attacks involve people doing something, so if someone looks suspicious you can tie the suspect up and search (and hopefully defuse) his/her belongings. In an extreme case where they find a ticking time bomb with multi-colored wires to cut, (where did that cliche come from, anyway?) a broken vial of some toxin or bio-weapon, or anything else that requires professional

  • by wardk (3037)
    finally, a way to discover those who are thinking criminal thoughts!

    I bet it even works 5-10% of the time.
  • a lot of false positives. I can't imagine they getting a reasonable ratio of true positives to false positives. (and false negatives vs. true negatives.) we're talking about maybe 1 or 2 plane-hijackings per year vs. millions of passengers.
  • air rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:31AM (#23599385) Homepage
    Would "air rage" be the rage I feel after I've had my laptop and bags rifled through, a full body-cavity search, and after having my toothpaste confiscated and after pouring my water in a big bucket?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stanistani (808333)
      >a full body-cavity search

      This happens to you on a regular basis?

      What the heck are you saying to the nice TSA folks?
      • Re:air rage (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:11AM (#23600003)
        What the heck are you saying to the nice TSA folks?

        I just wish the 'nice tsa folks' would go back to their old jobs. they were certainly skilled enough to inquire if I needed any fries with my order and I was happy with their overall service. why did we need to change that?

  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:32AM (#23599409)
    FTFA:

    Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively.


    Better hope you're not susceptible to airsickness...or overly concerned about making your connecting flight...or mildly allergic to the airline peanuts...or worried that Big Brother might just single you out for having the wrong hair/skin color, or for "suspect behavior", and make an example of you, with no chance of appeal or redress...

    I'm so glad my profession does not require large amounts of air travel...I would have to get another job.
    • by MrMr (219533)
      No problem, calmly playing with my AK47 and counting my hand-grenades is still ok.
    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:20AM (#23600139) Journal
      From TFA [newscientist.com]...

      It looks for running in the cabin
      This should catch the kids

      standing near the cockpit for long periods of time
      This should catch the flight crew and people using the forward bathrooms

      ...person nervously touching their face
      Should catch the nervous fliers and people with dry skin

      ...or sweating excessively
      This should catch the other nervous fliers, the over dressed, the over weight, and the folks without working air vents


      God help you if you are a nervous, fat, hyperactive kid who has to use the bathroom.

  • Sky marshal pulls a gun on me thinking I'm a terrorist just because after two hours of the little bastard behind me screaming and crying and kicking my seat, I finally get the wrong combination of facial expressions when my mp3 player battery dies...
  • I bet you'll get a felony "attempting to defeat a security device" conviction for blocking the seat-back camera, even inadvertently. Don't keep your face turned to the window either, that's suspicious activity.
  • I better not read /. while I'm on the plane, then. Wouldn't want them thinking that my facial expression due to some troll posting idiot comments was really me wanting to bring the whole show down!

    Seriously... the last time I took a reasonably long flight (4 hours) I had a pretty lasting scowl on my face the entire flight. Why? I was trying to fix a bug in a piece of software I was working on and it had to be resolved before I met the client I was visiting. Sounds like terrorist motives to me!

  • by bxwatso (1059160) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:36AM (#23599447)
    A camera in every seat back is another example of the government's efforts to identify and then marginalize nose pickers.
  • Happiness is mandatory, Citizen!

    Failure to be happy is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution.

    The Computer says so, and the Computer is your friend.

    =Smidge=
  • The more we do shit like this, the more the aliens will laugh at us when they land.
  • by itsdapead (734413) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:39AM (#23599491)

    ...and move all air travel over to the Mr T model: dope the passengers senseless at the airport, pack the unconscious bodies in like sides of meat and wake 'em up at the destination airport.

    Oh, wait - you wouldn't be able to sell them duty free & Skymall would go out of business. Darn.

  • Ok! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:40AM (#23599501)
    ... So, some sort of Post-It note with a smiley face on the back may be in order.
  • Oh, great. I have panic attacks on planes, and the one thing that keeps me calm and distracted is playing my DS. So not only do I look nervous, every time I start to get really freaked out I start fiddling with a strange little electronic device! This will not make flying more fun for me.
  • Looks like I'm in trouble the first time they charge my wife for a second suitcase.
  • I am nervous and sweaty every time I get loaded on to a 20 year old cattle car that has undergone substandard maintenance. And air rage? Well that's just a given these days. Personally, I look forward to saluting my new overlords at Guantanamo (or the EU equivalent) next time I fly.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:44AM (#23599565)
    My grandfather was commissioned into the Navy in 1936 as a pilot. My great uncle flew the China Clipper and was a Pan-Am pilot for 30 years. My father is a retired airline pilot with over 20 years. I took flying lessons from when I was 12 to when I was 17 (I was supposed to solo the Saturday following Sept. 11, however that fucked everything up and I never got my lesson).

    I even have some time logged behind the stick of a DASH-8 that my dad snuck me in to ferry between Newport News and Norfolk airports one time when I was 13 (only crew members on board, no "passengers").

    Its not that I don't like flying. However, I **HATE** to fly commercially. The seats are uncomfortable, the air is stale, babies scream, people cough and sneeze, etc.

    I always look pissed off on airlines and in airports, because I usually am. Of course, most of the flights I've taken in the past were as a non-rev and the crew knew my dad, so I was nice to them and they were nice to me, too.

    Frankly, I think the people who **DON'T** look like they're about to kill someone are the ones you need to watch out for. There is probably something wrong with them as they clearly enjoy pain and discomfort.
  • Feed the live performance [youtube.com] of Hocus Pocus by Focus into the system, watch the computer explode.
  • This is like looking for a pin in a stack of needles.

    Do terrorists, even specific types of terrorists, have some sort of uniform, identifiable facial expression right before they attack? I imagine some would be enraged, some would be peaceful, some would be resolute, and some might even be happy.
    • by kent_eh (543303)

      Do terrorists, even specific types of terrorists, have some sort of uniform, identifiable facial expression right before they attack? I imagine some would be enraged, some would be peaceful, some would be resolute, and some might even be happy.
      I expect this [google.ca] is the database they'll be comparing their results against.
  • There go my chances of joining that club .... what with it looking for unusual expressions and sweaty faces - I would get caught in the act. Drat!
  • 1. Security specialists are worried about poeple doing mischief on planes and want to spot them before something happens.
    2. They tell the airlines they have to watch the passengers better.
    3. Turns out you need actual people for this, who may or may not even be able to spot that casually.
    4. ??? aka Technology fixes everything!
    5. PROFIT (I guess some company will earn a good sum developing this)
  • So how would you know what to look for. It's not like we know every sign of a terrorist who is just about to blow himself up.
  • I hope I don't get arrested for that panicky "Oh my god I'm going to explode" face I get when I need to use the bathroom and they are about to take off or the damn cart is blocking the aisle.
  • Lets use the cameras to take the images, then find the seat number of the passenger, then download all of his passport information via the RFID chip.

    I'd really feel safe then. (sarcasm)
  • Um, not to sound racist or anything, but wouldn't the terrorist just send their women to blow up the planes then? You know, the ones that cover their faces with veils? Epic fail.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:05AM (#23599885) Journal
    For one thing, it's insanely expensive. Then there are the fear mongering chimps of the TSA whose sole job it is is to let the public think "the gubbernment is doing something about terrism", as it has been demonstrated more than once that they let all kinds of weapons pass through their systems. And then the indignities of being treated like cattle by the airline staff... It's just not worth it. I read somewhere that by 2020 the IT industry will use more energy than the airline industry, and that doesn't surprise me, as I think there won't be much of an airline industry by 2020.

    Word up: bring a tiny bit of modelling clay in your pocket, and then when you sit down, put it on top of the camera lens.

    Or just sit there and pick your nose for THE ENTIRE FLIGHT.

    RS

  • is that like, picking your nose?

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