In an effort to expand the use of body scanners, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) paid vendors millions of dollars to study surveillance technologies in order to develop systems that could covertly track pedestrians at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere, says a pro-privacy group.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says the DHS documents it obtained shows the agency “spent millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology” that could be used at large venues such as railway stations.
In addition, EPIC says DHS planned “to expand the use of these systems to monitor crowds, peering under clothes and inside bags away from airports. “
According to DHS’ “Privacy Impact Assessment for the Rail Security Pilot Study Phase II at PATH,” the plan to collect information of individuals “in the form of images of individual commuters traversing the detection area to assess the potential presence of concealed explosive threat,” was proposed on July 12, 2006.
The document says, “technologies (used) will include traditional motion video and still photography images, infrared (IR) thermography images, millimeter-wave (MMW) images, and terahertz (THz) images. Both whole body and facial images will be collected depending on the technology system/concept of operations.”
The document says “all rail commuters who pass in the detection area will be subject to image analyses for concealed body-borne explosive threats as they progress for entrance turnstiles toward subway platforms.”
DHS was also assessing “the merits” of available and emerging technologies “to mitigate the threat of body-borne explosive device or leave-behind bomb.” The technologies and security systems “must be evaluated in an actual commuter rail environment to collect operationally relevant data,” the document says.
DHS says it dropped the projects in a "very early" phase after testing showed flaws.
Nonetheless, EPIC said the project is disturbing because it shows the department believed “that this level of surveillance is acceptable when in fact it is not at all acceptable."