Terminal U: A British airport is to trial a covert lie detector test that uses thermal imaging cameras to spot signs of deception.
The device – which will be tested at an undisclosed UK airport – could in theory be used in interviews with customs officers or at passport control, to verify if people are telling the truth about their intentions to enter the country.
The thermal imaging cameras are designed to pick up subtle changes in a person’s temperature – usually increased blood flow and more heat around the eyes – that might indicate they are not telling the truth, scientists claim. The video observations are then fed through to a computer database that stores specific facial expressions and blood flow patterns associated with lying.
The idea is that the interviewer can find out whether the person is lying or not at the touch of a button – and can carry out more intensive interviews if necessary. It is a new approach to lie detection, as unlike traditional (polygraph) tests, people will be unaware that they are being screened.
This technique is still in the early stage of development and its success rate is expected to improve as the system is further developed. Critics argue that the device raises privacy concerns, especially if it is widely adopted at airports.
The Home office and HM Revenue & Customs is sponsoring the research. The system under trial has been designed by Hasan Ugail, professor of visual computing at the UK’s University of Bradford.