Benefit Claimants to Face Lie-Detector Tests ; Liberties Groups Warn of Abuse of Voice-Analysis Technology

Article excerpt

Suspected benefit fraudsters will face lie-detector tests in a Whitehall initiative designed to catch out cheats claiming cash they are not entitled to.

The Government is preparing to test hi-tech voice analysis developed by the security industry in Israel and the United States, to catch out claimants who are not telling the truth.

The lie-detector technology, which measures stress, hesitation and other indicators of anxiety in a person's voice, will help identify people falsely pretending to be single parents or fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits.

Ministers believe the technology could be a valuable tool against fraudulent claimants, which cost the taxpayer pounds 3bn a year.

Civil servants have been talking to insurance companies, which already use the technology to help uncover fraud in the UK, about the most effective way to test the voice analysis. They are looking at whether to use the technology in telephone conversations or one- to-one interviews.

The prospect of lie detectors being used by the Government has alarmed civil liberties campaigners who say it should not be used without the claimant's knowledge and needs regulation.

"New technology such as this needs to be carefully regulated to ensure the innocent are not swept up with the guilty. Surely there are more transparent methods for catching fraudsters?" said Jen Corlew of Liberty.

James Plaskitt, the work and pensions minister, admitted in questions from the Tories that he was currently considering how to pilot the lie-detector technology.

David Ruffley the shadow minister for welfare reform, said he thought the technology could be a "valuable tool" against fraudsters. …