The media is reporting that a pilot scheme in the UK to use voice stress analysis (or, more accurately, “voice risk analysis”) on benefit applicants is a success. The Observer headline proclaims Technology set to be introduced nationwide after pilot saves £110,000 (2 September):
Benefit claimants and job seekers could be forced to take lie detector tests as early as next year after an early review of a pilot scheme exposed 126 benefit cheats in just three months, saving one local authority £110,000.
The news report also points out that many are skeptical:
Experts in America, where the most comprehensive scrutiny of the technology has taken place, warn that the technology is far from failsafe. David Ashe, chief deputy of the Virginia Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation, said, ‘The experience of being tested, or of claiming a benefit and being told that your voice is being checked for lies, is inherently stressful. ‘Lie detector tests have a tendency to pass people for whom deception is a way of life and fail those who are scrupulously honest.’
Reading beyond the headlines, it’s clear that the pilot study is not finished, it hasn’t been properly evaluated, and no decision has yet been made. In Lie detector beats benefit fraud, silicon.com (3 Sept) reveals
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – which funded the pilot – told silicon.com the department will evaluate the technology when the trial is completed next May. He said the DWP will “look at the evaluation results and see if it’s viable, see if it’s something to work on and see if other councils are interested in doing it”. If the benefits are seen as sufficient, the system could potentially be rolled out across the country, although no firm plans are currently in place.