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Oh this is just priceless. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners are learning to recognize a special set of forbidden facial expressions. If your face slips into one of these during a TSA inspection, you will be taken aside and given a more detailed screening:

Travelers at Sea-Tac and dozens of other major airports across America are being scrutinized by teams of TSA behavior-detection officers specially trained to discern the subtlest suspicious behaviors.


TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program--called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique)--that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions--a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt, said Carl Maccario, who helped start the program for TSA.

"In the SPOT program, we have a conversation with (passengers) and we ask them about their trip," said Maccario from his office in Boston. "When someone lies or tries to be deceptive, ... there are behavior cues that show it. ... A brief flash of fear."

Let me quote from George Orwell's, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Part 1, Chapter 5):

He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.

I don't know about you but this is pretty darn scary. I mean what is a "forbidden face?" Maybe I am just pissed off or in a bad mood. Will they flag me for that facial expression? Heck do we even have any evidence that this actually works? Who did the testing? Who did the training?

I'd also feel a whole lot better (and safer) if the TSA actually acted as though there was this thing called the Constitution. Or that it mattered to them. I mean are we not protected from unreasonable search and seizure? Don't we have the presumption of innocence? If I need/want to fly for business or pleasure do I have to give up all my rights. Well I guess we know the answer to this last question.

Source: Found via Making Light.

Originally posted to webranding on Wed Jan 02, 2008 at 11:11 AM PST.

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