Here's what I'm referring to:
A research project under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) tries to identify potential terrorists by monitoring individuals’ vital signs, body language, and other physiological patterns. The idea is that surveilling people’s behavior may detect their intent to do harm. in tests, the system was 70 percent accurate, according to the DHS. (What this means is unclear; were research subjects instructed to pretend to be terrorists to see if their “malintent” was spotted?) Though these systems seem embryonic, the point is that law enforcement takes them very seriously.
Stopping a crime from happening sounds like an enticing prospect. Isn’t preventing infractions before they take place far better than penalizing the perpetrators afterwards? Wouldn’t forestalling crimes benefit not just those who might have been victimized by them, but society as a whole?
So basically what pulls this out of the real of philosophical musings for me is the fact that there is in fact currently a program which is apparently already up to 70% effective. That seems like a high enough number to justify a public debate in the minds of many.
Let's look at it this way:
1) It's basically a more comprehensive version of profiling.
2) Profiling already happens every day in almost every social interaction.
3) Profiling happens both voluntarily and involuntarily in law enforcement as well.
4) This form of profiling has a much higher chance of being correct than a cop walking a beat and "seeing that look in his eye".
5) Has the potential to lead to people being incarcerated or unfairly treated/singled out/watched/denied rights based on math, which can never predict human action with a 100% certainty.
I can see why law enforcement would want to use it and how it can prevent crimes which would be groundbreaking in police work since that has never historically been an effective function of theirs, but as a citizen I am afraid of the power and trust it puts in authority and feel it's full embrace would ammount to further oiling an already slippery slope.