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Partial success in transparency lawsuit into EU’s AI lie detector research

Partial success in transparency lawsuit into EU’s AI lie detector research

Member of the European Parliament and civil liberties campaigner Patrick Breyer has achieved a partial success in his legal dispute against the European Research Executive Agency to have classified documents and on the ethical justifiability, legal admissibility and results of biometrics-based video lie detector technology trialed in the EU-funded iBorderCtrl project.

The Court of Justice of the European Union published it ruling which states that the EU research may no longer keep the documents entirely secret, with some further conditions.

Ethical and legal evaluations of technologies for “automated deception detection” or automated “risk assessment” must be published, but this does not apply if they relate to the iBorderCtrl: Intelligent Portable Border Control System project. The results of that project may also be kept secret, in order to protect commercial interests.

However, project participants are obliged to publish a scientific report on such projects within four years, to provide public transparency.

MEP Patrick Breyer sees the ruling to the lawsuit he filed in March 2019 as a partial success as it should boost public discussion around the dangers of the technologies used in mass surveillance, mass control and personal profiling.

“Trade secrets’ will no longer be a killer argument for refusing public access,” writes Dr. Breyer after the ruling. “What is not acceptable, however, is that the specific EU surveillance projects should remain secret for years and that an overriding public interest in their transparency has not been recognised.

“Taxpayers, science, media and parliaments must have access to publicly funded research – especially in the case of pseudo-scientific and Orwellian developments such as a ‘video lie detector’. There is an urgent need for legal reform when it comes to intrusive EU research and development!”

The €4.5 million (US$5.1 million) EU-funded iBorderCtrl research project aimed to develop a prototype of an online lie detector test which people wanting to travel to the EU could take at home via a webcam. The system would analyze facial expression to determine whether the truth was being told.

The technology was developed by scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University, selling it commercially through their firm Silent Talker Ltd. The scientists claim that as the technology was built on machine learning, they did not know what the system assumes are the signs of deception, states Breyer.

Meanwhile, scientists in Israel have published peer-reviewed results of their new approach to lie detection which has proven 73 percent accurate in simple situations.

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