“Thermal Camera May Detect Lying”

United Press International (UPI) reports on the development of a new system that purports to detect lies. Excerpt:

An experimental new lie detector that measures sudden flashes of heat from around the eyes may soon provide another line of defense against terrorism . . .

“On the other hand, when thinking about the possibility of someone with explosives in his shoes boarding a plane, given the technology’s security potential, I think most of us would want this application to be accelerated as quickly as possible,” Levine added. “We’re making advances in science, and I think the ethical issues need to be dealt with when the advances are being made. Otherwise ethics gets left behind,” he said.

The device consists of a high-definition thermal imaging camera the size of a shoebox. The scientists also have developed a miniaturized version of the camera, roughly the diameter of a postage stamp. Both are hooked up to a filing cabinet’s worth of computer hardware.

“As people lie, there is a massive increase in blood flow around the eyes, and associated with that there is sudden warming around the eyes, where the color changes to white in the thermal imaging system,” Levine explained.

The research team had 20 volunteers commit a mock crime and then assert innocence under experimental conditions at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute in Fort Jackson, S.C.

Eight of the volunteers stabbed a mannequin and stole $20 from it, while the rest had no knowledge of the crime. The device accurately detected lying roughly 80 percent of the time, a precision level comparable to standard lie detecting polygraph tests performed by experts.

Even if the device discussed in the article were 80% accurate, the extremely low base rate of terrorists would make it completely useless as a tool to screen airline passengers.


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