France tests software to track suspicious behaviour

PARIS • Software that monitors suspicious behaviour and luggage could eventually be integrated into 40,000 surveillance cameras across France, as the country tightens security after last month's deadly Paris attacks.

The public transport authorities are looking to technology to better predict warning signs among passengers in the wake of the shootings and bombings that left 130 people dead.

New software being tested by France's state-owned SNCF tracks changes in body temperature, raised voices and jerky body movements that can indicate heightened levels of anxiety, according to the rail firm's general secretary, Mr Stephane Volant.

"We are testing to work out what flags up people with a negative intention, an aggressor, or a groper," he said on Wednesday.

He added that what was also being ascertained was the level of "social acceptability" of such software. Cameras that detect packages left unattended for too long were also under evaluation, he said, adding the experiments had the full backing of the law.

WORKING ON RED FLAGS

We are testing to work out what flags up people with a negative intention, an aggressor, or a groper.

MR STEPHANE VOLANT, general secretary of France's state-owned railway company SNCF

Another strand of SNCF's strategy was the possibility of equipping its staff with wearable cameras to identify fare dodging or suspect behaviour, and in the spring it will launch an app that allows passengers to raise an alert from their smartphones.

A law is also under consideration to give SNCF security agents powers to perform pat-downs and search luggage.

France will install security gates at stations in Paris and Lille for the Thalys cross-Europe rail services by Sunday, minister Segolene Royal said on Tuesday.

In August, a heavily armed man carried out an attack in a

Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, but he was overpowered by passengers. The high-speed Thalys service links Paris with Lille in northern France, the Belgian capital, Brussels, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the western German city of Cologne.

Passengers boarding those trains currently do not have to pass through security checks, unlike for the cross-Channel Eurostar train services to Britain, which have airport-style security.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'France tests software to track suspicious behaviour'. Print Edition | Subscribe