Brain Fingerprinting

Now that fingerprinting has come under pressure for being unreliable and often the cause of false convictions, a new generation of technology is emerging to take its place. Take for example Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, which promises to find terrorists by reading their brain waves:

How do we determine if a person is a terrorist or spy? There is a new technology, that for the first time, allows us to measure scientifically if specific information is stored in a person’s brain. Brain Fingerprinting technology can determine the presence or absence of specific information, such as terrorist training and associations.

Here is the key to the new technology:

One fundamental difference between a terrorist and an innocent suspect is that the terrorist has detailed knowledge of terrorist activities and an innocent person does not. A terrorist has either committed a crime, received training in terrorism or worked with others in planning terrorist attacks. The innocent suspect does not have this type of information stored in his brain.

The fundamental problem with this is that the person being scanned has to have advance knowledge. When it comes to many terrorist cells, especially suicide bombers, the perpetrators could know little or nothing at all before the day of their mission. Also, this system seems to depend on the operators having the right pattern to match with terrorist information within a suspect’s brain.

That brings us back to the need for detailed intelligence of the terrorists and arrest of their inside planners, at which point the technology only provides a marginal gain, no? My guess is that someone will try to use this in the opposite scenario with mixed or even unjust results — trying to build a case for conviction on information that is unreliable by claiming infallibility in the technology.

What will a Brain Fingerprint look like when we watch news about terrorist plots, or read spy novels? Will it mark us as indistinguishable from someone planning or actively engaged in a terrorist plot? How would Tom Clancy’s Brain Fingerprint look?

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