Border officers try new machine to interrogate travelers in Arizona

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are experimenting a new machine to interrogate travelers on the border in Nogales, Arizona, reported the website The Daily Beast.

According to the article, travelers respond to questions to cartoon-looking face, or avatar, appears onscreen and begins making queries in a polite, automated voice in a kiosk that looks like an ATM. The avatar records the answers and forwards them to a tablet handled by one of the blue-uniformed officers. They see not just what you said but how the traveler responded them, along with a green, yellow or red “risk color,” based on the responses.

It’s sort of like a lie-detector test – except the government dislikes calling it that.

For now, the kiosk is being tested with applicants seeking “trusted traveler” status; these are people who agree to a background check in exchange for avoiding long daily waits at the border.

But the future could hold something different: a cluster of high-tech monitoring devicessuch as special infrared cameras and microphones, attached to the ATM-like machines. As you answer the avatar’s questions, the devices assess an array of physiological reactions, including body temperature, facial expressions, the tempo and frequency of your voice, breathing patterns, and more.

The technology is part of a field of research known as “credibility assessment,” which seeks to capture physiological cues we give off emotionally and cognitively: the facial temperature of someone carrying false papers, the anxious posturing of a drug courier, the racing heart of a would-be terrorist.


About tanialara

Tania Lara has a vast experience working as a journalist in Mexico and the U.S. reporting in-depth about the economic contributions and realities of Mexican immigrants. This summer, she will be covering border issues and elections for the 21st Century Border Initiative blog. Her stories about complex cross border matters have been published in Spanish-language media outlets including CNN México, Expansión, and ¡Ahora Sí!, as well as the English-language newspaper The Austin American-Statesman.
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