14 January 2010

Mikey Hicks is 8-years old, was born shortly before 9/11/01, and is on the terrorist selectee list for extra screening when flying. Story: Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List

There are two problems with this type of screening that are well-illustrated in the article.

1) That the list’s only criterium for flagging a person is a name match. There are no other factors taken in account: not history, demographics, nor other intelligence. In one case, someone managed to avoid the list by changing his name. In effect, this renders the list totally useless in that it captures very high false positives and can easily made to result in false negatives.

2) There is no reason that this child has spent eight years, his entire life, on this list without some sort of effective recourse.

It points to a complete lack or interest or inability of our government to design an intelligent system.

My guess, is that it is designed this way so that no one actually needs to be trained. A computer flags the kids, and a TSA staff member does the computer’s bidding. There is no apparent place for the assessment of the TSA agent him or herself.

What a poorly thought-out use case.

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