EU plans to introduce “smart lie-detection systems” at busiest borders

The EU has announced that it plans to introduce “smart lie-detection systems” at some of its busiest borders. The project has so far received around €4.5m in funding, and the EU claims that it will help to identify illegal migrants, saving time and resources for border staff. The new system will involve the use of computer animation, which will be personalised according to the traveler’s language, gender, and ethnicity.

It will assess official documents, including passports, visas, and proof of funds. It will also look at the individual’s social media activity and their biometric data. Using this information, the “deception detection” system will look at the 38 micro-expressions and gestures of the traveler to try and spot patterns associated with lying and assess if they are being truthful.

According to the European Commission, this “unique approach to ‘deception detection’ analyses the micro-expressions of travelers to figure out if the interviewee is lying”. Those who are deemed to be at a higher risk of lying will be required to go through a detailed check; lower risk travelers will undergo a shorter check by border officials.

George Boultadakis, from European Dynamics in Luxembourg, who ran the project, said: “We’re employing existing and proven technologies – as well as novel ones – to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks. The system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.”

Trials of the technology will go ahead at borders in Hungary, Greece, and Latvia. However, it’s been under intense scrutiny by a number of experts – some have accused it of promoting pseudoscience.

Bruno Verschuere, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Amsterdam, said in a newspaper interview that it could produce unfair results. Additionally, he pointed out that there’s a lack of evidence that facial movements and other movements are proof that someone is lying, and that not all liars show these types of stress.

He said: “Non-verbal signals, such as micro-expressions, really do not say anything about whether someone is lying or not. This is the embodiment of everything that can go wrong with lie detection. There is no scientific foundation for the methods that are going to be used now. Once these systems are put into use, they will not go away. The public will only hear the success stories and not the stories about those who have been wrongly stopped.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the project said: “The border crossing decision is not based on the single tool (ie lie detection) but on the aggregated risk estimations based on a risk-based approach and technology that has been used widely in custom procedures.Therefore, the overall procedure is safe because it is not relying in the risk on one analysis (ie the lie detector) but on the correlated risks from various analysis.”

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