The value risk-profiling can offer our border controllers
Could fact-based risk profiling be the way forward for border control? Asks SAS Director of Public Security, Joanne Taylor.
Media Coverage: Publication: publicTECHNOLOGY.net
Recent months have seen an unprecedented level of criticism of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), with MPs warning that it must rid itself of its "bunker mentality" or risk raising suspicions that it is trying to mislead parliament and the public.
The problem is that all the arguments and confrontations have tended to obscure the real issue that underpinned this argument namely; how can we effectively manage the growing number of visitors coming into the UK?
The shortcomings of the traditional ‘blanket’ approach to security which subjects all visitors to the same stringent checks have been cruelly exposed in recent weeks with many air travellers facing up to three hour waits in the passport control queues.
The growth in traveller numbers coming into the UK is only set to continue. In the short-term, the London Olympics looks set to be the most significant challenge with estimates suggesting 5.3m extra foreign tourists will visit the UK this summer as a result of the Games, and already long queues at Britain’s border crossing points will grow even longer as a result.
Tourism is continuing to boom in the UK and looks set to do so for the foreseeable future, making it even more unlikely that blanket security methods will work over the long term. As visitor numbers grow, these methods will inevitably lead to cost increases as more people will be needed to manage border control effectively and bring down the current unacceptable levels of queuing.
An Alternative Approach
Ultimately security is the most important issue here and to achieve an appropriate balance between cost, passenger convenience and security, a risk-based approach is the only pragmatic solution.
Despite the negative media coverage, the recent borders pilot immigration scheme, which used risk-profiling techniques, cut queues while detecting more high-risk individuals. Initial results revealed that the scheme was proving successful in its primary objective of detecting more high-risk individuals trying to enter the country illegally - from Europe, in particular.
Indeed, it may have potential benefits for other countries across the continent, with the ongoing downturn making public sector unrest increasingly likely.
Risk profiling offers an increasingly viable alternative to traditional security techniques. At its best, it effectively involves using intelligence, data analytics and behavioural modelling to assess the levels of risk individuals pose. The approach employs complex algorithms and advanced risk management to evaluate whether an individual is a legitimate traveller and as such should freely pass through our borders or be subject to further scrutiny. Rather than leading to more open borders, it can actually significantly enhance protection. This kind of profiling is increasingly being deployed around the world ╨ and SAS is involved in delivering the technology that supports it.
The concepts behind profiling are well established in a range of industry sectors, including most notably financial services and banking, where it is used to detect fraud, to decide whether an individual is a suitable candidate for a mortgage or a loan, or to assess whether a specific transaction should go through.
Utilising the same techniques, my company is also helping customers involved in cargo profiling at borders. For instance, The Korea Customs Service (KCS) uses our software to implement advanced risk management with a high detection rate, improving the effective inspection of imported goods and detection of illegitimate goods.
Over the last decade, South Korea’s imported goods more than doubled as the size of the KCS work force remained the same. This forced the agency to find a way to thoroughly detect illegal cargo with its existing resources without a total inspection of imported goods.
The agency decided to employ advanced analytics capabilities in its innovation efforts. Looking for a software application to develop the data mining models, KCS decided to introduce risk-profiling technology for fraud detection, based on its widespread use and trustworthy reputation in the data mining field. More specific and accurate sorting of illegal cargo in this instance helping to drive up overall detection rates by more than 20%.
While safety and security must always be paramount, the operational efficiencies that risk profiling supports should not be ignored. In the KCS implementation, a decrease in inspection rates and number of inspections through advanced risk management resulted in lower staffing levels.
Furthermore, the number of inspections for normal cargo was significantly decreased, leading to fewer complaints from import companies, a higher detection rate and a favourable reaction from industry.
Ultimately, risk profiling, if it is to work effectively, needs to rely on facts rather than the interpretation of individuals. Humans make subjective decisions while data driven technology drives objective, fact-based decisions.
Implementing a bespoke risk-based model is a real option that will dramatically improve efficiency. In particular, using technology to analyse data efficiently and to collaboratively share data drives these efficiencies while taking pressure off human decision-making. The kind of organisational efficiencies that fact-based risk profiling drives could potentially have great benefits in solving the problem of exhaustive airport security checks that continues to grow more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks.
Just one example; with no less than 800m passengers carried by air in 2010 in the EU-27 countries, introducing intelligence-led, targeted checks on higher-risk travellers has to be the common sense approach.