“Creator of Brainwave Lie Detector Fears It May Be Misused”

Jenifer Johnston reports for the Sunday Herald:

THE creator of a new lie detector which scans brainwaves before a subject even speaks has admitted she fears what could happen if it falls into the wrong hands.

“We assume that the people asking the questions are going to be noble and working for something that is good , but of course that is not always going to be the case,” Dr Jennifer Vendemia told the Sunday Herald. This week she will address a major conference on crime at London’s Science Museum.

Vendemia’s new detector deduces from brainwaves whether a subject is preparing to answer a question truthfully.

Her work is funded by US government grants of $5.1 million (£2.7m), but at the end of her research she can choose to hand her device to the government or to a private company or individual.

“I stand to gain a great deal from it personally when it is completed, but I am very mindful of the uses it could be put to,” she said. “I have tried several times to get ethical investigations going into what we are doing here without success.”

The detector developed by Vendemia, a retained investigator with the Department of Defence Polygraph Institute, places 128 electrodes on the face and scalp which translate brainwaves in less than a second. Subjects only have to hear interrogators’ questions to give a response.

On groups, Vendemia has so far had an accuracy rate of between 94 and 100%.

Professor Paul Matthews, a neurologist at Oxford University who will also address the conference, said there are ethical concerns surrounding new lie detection technology. “In the US particularly the suspect has the right to remain silent — this technology obviously changes that.”

Dr. Vendemia’s lecture is scheduled for 13 January. The Lecture List provides the following announcement:

Naked Science: Criminal Memories

How would you feel about having your mind read by a machine? Is this the ultimate invasion of privacy? Find out more about the sophisticated memory testing or ‘brain finger-printing’ technologies currently used on criminals in the USA and discuss with experts whether we should use them here. This event is one in a series of debates on crime.

The Home Office has already begun trialing polygraphs, which typically measure heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, as part of sex offenders parole in the North West of England – but what lies in the future of lie detectors? Will we soon test cheating partners and dishonest employees? Can we really ever trust technology which tells us what we are thinking?

Experts include Dr Jennifer Vendemia, Principal Investigator, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, USA, who will discuss the potential pitfalls revolving around the misrepresentation of the research. Professor Paul Matthews, Neuroscientist, University of Oxford will also be on hand to discuss the science behind lie detectors. Tor Butler-Cole, King’s College London, will be talking about the ethical and legal implications of using new brain fingerprinting techniques to determine criminal responsibility. The event will be facilitated by Dr Dan Glaser, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UK. Gareth Jones, presenter of Tomorrow’s World and children’s show How2 will facilitate this event.

The Dana Center, which is hosting the conference, has an announcement on its website. Admission is free, but reservations are required.

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