Lie Detector To Root Out Welfare Cheats

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:51pm.

The British Government appears set to introduce oral lie detector tests to root out social security cheats following a successful trial in a local council.


But critics of the technology, known as voice risk analysis, say it is not reliable enough and could result in legitimate claimants missing out.

Welfare fraud costs Britain almost $2 billion every year.

Harrow Council, in north-west London, says in just three months, it has exposed 173 council tax and housing benefit cheats, saving $250,000.

The council's benefits manager Griselda Colvin says some people no longer want to apply after knowing they will be tested.

"Some people have willingly said, 'OK, I'm not going through with it, I'm withdrawing my application'," she said.

"That's what we're looking for. Those are the cases we're looking to identify, basically."

The British Government plans to extend funding for trials in five other councils. Up to 400 could then adopt the technology as early as next year.

Developed in Israel, the software works by first reading the caller's normal voice.

It detects micro changes in the speech, to see if the caller is telling the truth. Beeps indicate that there is a high risk of deception.

Kerry Furber, a former member of the fraud squad, is the managing director of software developers DigiLog UK.

He says the system has a high degree of accuracy at detecting people who tell the truth.

"We can be very, very confident, I would say in excess of 95 per cent, if not higher, confident that somebody's told us the truth," he said.

"If you're telling me things that are truthful, your stress levels don't have the same amount of variation as if you suddenly started to tell me some lies that you were having an emotional or cognitive problem with."

Critics, including polygraph specialists, do not believe the voice risk software is foolproof.

Richard Exell from the Trades Union Congress also has serious doubts.

"If anything, it's even less accurate than the lie detector tests that we see in the films - the polygraphs," he said.

"Some assessments have said that voice stress analysis does no better than chance at picking out whether people are lying or not."

But developer Kerry Furber says the software benefits the majority of claimants who are truthful.

At a time when surveillance and early detection are very much in vogue, it is likely to prove popular.


ABC AU - September 29, 2007 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:51pm.