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Committee seeks to vet homeland security technology for 'public acceptance'.

In May, a cable news network ran a report on Transportation Security Administration body scanners that can peer underneath clothing and show the outlines of a subject's body. For those who follow homeland security technology, this was not news.


However, the report pushed the idea of public acceptance of security technology to the forefront.

As the U.S. military has discovered in the past, millions of dollars can be spent on developing a weapons system. But the money can go down the drain if there is a public outcry against it.

That's why Sharla Rausch, director of the human factors division in the Department of homeland security's Science and Technology Directorate, started a "community perceptions of technology" committee.

"It's not enough to be efficient and effective. It also has to be acceptable to the public," she said at a National Defense Industrial Association homeland security science and technology conference.

So far, the committee has scrutinized five different DHS technology programs under development--including some from her own human factors division. It also held a bilateral meeting with panelists from Canada to look at some of the proposed ideas for monitoring the northern border.

The committee comprises attorneys--including some from the American Civil Liberties Union--ethicists, psychologists, public relations experts and former lawmakers.

In the panel, the program manager presents the technology, then must sit back and listen to the discussion. The manager answers technical questions, but says nothing else.

"It resulted in one of our managers saying 'I really don't think this technology makes sense here," Rausch said.

"We think this will result in better technologies and technologies that will be better accepted by the public," she said.

When the committee started, Rausch had a hard time finding program managers to volunteer. Now, some are saying that they don't want to start pursuing new technologies until they go before the panel, she said.

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Comment:Committee seeks to vet homeland security technology for 'public acceptance'.(SECURITY BEAT: HOMELAND DEFENSE BRIEFS)
Publication:National Defense
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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