DHS to offer liability protection for anti-terrorist tech vendors

First passed in 2002, the US Safety Act regulates what kinds of anti-terrorist technology can be sold to the government. Now, vendors gaining DHS certification are also eligible for legal liability protection -- and quite a number of them are applying.

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) - Businesses wanting to sell their anti-terrorist technology to the US government need to get special certification first. The wait for this certification can be 120 days or more. But now there's a reward for patience: Vendors will now receive legal liability protections if their products make it through the process, said Bruce Davidson of the US Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), delivering an update this week on the U.S. Safety Act.

Although first passed by Congress back in 2002, the Safety Act continues to pick up steam, contended Davidson, who is deputy director of the DHS's Office of Safety Act Implementation.

Last year, new anti-terrorist products from more than 50 vendors made it on the DHS's "Approved Product List for Homeland Security," said the deputy director, speaking at the Maritime Security Conference in New York.

Legal liability protections to DHS-certified vendors, which went into effect in July of 2006, were added by Congress as an incentive for creating new technologies aimed at fending off terrorists.

For example, one of this year's additions to the approved product list, IBM's Global Name Scoring, is an application designed to improve the accuracy of identity verification and name searches by ranking names based on a choice of linguistic, phonetic, and "specific cultural" patterns.

Another new entry on the list, Kolisman Inc.'s LORROS Mk II, is an observation system designed to provide 24-hour video surveillance regardless of weather or lighting conditions.

For the DHS, "the major focus is on whether the technology is efficacious" in determining whether certification will be granted, Davidson said.

The DHS deals with most certification applications within 120 days. "But we can't guarantee that," he admitted.

Davidson advised vendors at the show to make sure to answer all of the questions on the application form, which can be found at SafetyAct.gov.

"Otherwise, we might need to give you an 'incomplete,'" he quipped.

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