New Eye-Scanning Lie Detection, Will it Replace the Polygraph?

Participants sit in front of the eye detection station and answer a series of questions, it’s impossible not to think of the dystopian possibilities of this technology. By capturing imperceptible changes in the participant’s eyes, the device aims to become to next generation of lie detection.

The widely accepted assumption is that deception is cognitively more demanding than telling the truth and lies can be perceived through subtle changes in the eye. Looking at a computer monitor with an eye-tracking camera just beneath, the participant answers a series of true/false questions. An infrared camera observes the participants eyes, capturing thousands of images while they answer questions on a tablet. The machine analyzes the answers against pupil dilation and reaction time and the data is fed to servers, where an algorithm calculates whether or not the participant is lying.

Unlike the old lie detectors, polygraph tests have cables and sensors, these new eye scanning tests have no wires connecting the participant, and no one overseeing the test or the results, it is all automated, requiring no examiner and the results are determined by algorithm. The companies that make these new tests claim much higher success rates than traditional polygraph tests, which experts say are only around 65 percent accurate.

The US government, local law enforcement agencies as well as governments and companies around the world have already started using the technology as an alternative to the clunkier less accurate polygraph tests. Eye scanning for lie detection is an alarming trend when considering the context of evermore ubiquitous surveillance with facial recognition technology and iris scanning becoming commonplace.

In documents obtained by Mark Harris for an article in Wired- Converus, an eye scanning lie detector company, says the Defense Intelligence Agency and the US Customs and Border Protection are running trials with the technology. Converus says that individual locations of McDonald’s, IHOP, FedEx and Hotel Chains Best Western and Four Points by Sheraton have used the new systems in Guatemala and Panama.



Image adapted from: “Self Portrait” by Claus Zürbig is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and “Extinguish the stars; the darkness sweeps” by Stacie DaPonte is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0