In the past, criminal charges were usually leveled at people after they committed crimes or, at the very earliest, during the commission of the crime itself. But rarely did criminals have to worry about being caught before they actually committed the crime.
This could soon change, as the United States Department of Homeland Security is reportedly testing new crime-predicting technology aimed at stopping criminals before they commit illegal acts.
According to the Telegraph (UK) the government’s new “pre-crime” measuring device measures subtle changes in a person’s body movement. It also tracks changes in a person’s rhythm of speech and voice pitch.
The system also monitors, from afar, a person’s body heat, breathing patterns, blink rate, and eye movements. Apparently, these subtle body changes help law enforcement officers predict who is about to commit a crime.
The new system, which has raised concern for privacy advocates across the country, is called the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), and has already been tested by government employees in the United States.
Of course, the program’s crime-predicting cameras won’t immediately appear on every American street corner, ready to thwart petty thieves or muggers.
Instead, is it much more likely that FAST will be deployed at airports and other obvious targets for terrorists, such as major sporting events or other large public gatherings.
Predictably, public watchdogs are already concerned about the potential privacy intrusions posed by the new technology. In this brave new world, skeptics ask, will every fan at a football game need to preemptively bring a criminal defense attorney?
The answer is likely no, as Homeland Security officials have promised that law-abiding citizens need not worry about any loss of privacy due to the new technology.
While FAST machines are able to gather all sorts of information about an individual’s bodily activities, a Homeland Security spokesman assured reporters that “there would be no personally-identifiable information captured from people going through the system.”
So, while the FAST system will be able to detect people’s eye movements, pulse, and body heat, they allegedly won’t know anyone’s name, address, or favorite flavor of ice cream.
This may offer little solace for citizens concerned about increasingly obtrusive government surveillance. To be fair, though, FAST doesn’t really represent a significant change in Americans’ collective rights to privacy.
Traffic lights, ATM machines, and schools all come equipped with cameras today. Americans have grown numb to the prevalence of surveillance equipment in almost every conceivable public location.
So, while FAST may make some people nervous, the addition of a few extra cameras to public locations may not even raise our eyebrows.
Of course, if the new technology does raise a few eyebrows, FAST cameras will likely detect the movement and file the information on a government server.