False Positives, Few Matches Plague 'No-Fly' List

posted Jun 09, 2003

lindner writes "According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the United States No-Fly List uses a soundex algorithm to match names. Designed 'to quickly summon passenger names or to catch deal-hunting passengers making duplicate bookings.' The system has only managed to rack up a slew of false-positives, including everyone matching soundex ("J. Adams") at one point in time. The problem has gotten so bad that there is now a "Fly List" for chronically misidentified passengers." [Privacy Digest]

This should be a firing offense for the programmers. With millions of inputs even the (inevitable) slightest inaccuracy instantly means hundreds of false positives; using such an ancient, English-centric algorithm for a mission-critical instantly renders the system utterly useless, made more useless by the fact the system (software + people) is too arrogant to admit it is wrong.


Site Links


All Posts