Canadian defence scientists probe ‘biometrics of intent’

OTTAWA — Canadian defence researchers are investigating how brain signals might distinguish hostile intent from everyday emotions such as anger and fear. Though there is still much to learn, the goal is to push biometric science beyond identification techniques to a new frontier where covert security technology would secretly scan peoples’ minds to determine whether they harbour malicious intent.

“This ability can be used by members of the military and the security forces to isolate adversaries prior to commission of actions,” according to a research paper posted on the federal government’s Defence Research and Development Canada website last week. The concept resembles Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller Minority Report, in which police in 2054 apprehend criminals based on a foreknowledge of crimes yet to be committed.

If successful in the real world, the “biometrics of intent” could, for example, help determine whether the anxious-looking man at the airport is just stressed-out or actually dangerous. Or if someone is just having a bad day at the office or really does intend to kill the boss.