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London council to use lie detectors to finger benefit cheats

Calling call centres is stressful already

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Lambeth Council has done a deal with KPMG Capita* to use voice recognition software to finger cheats contacting call centres to sort out benefits.

Everyone contacting the centre will be told they are being scanned and will then be asked 19 questions."Voice Risk Analysis" will then finger voices it considers suspicious. The pilot is being paid for by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The technology supposedly works by detecting "micro-tremors" which, we are told, indicate not only stress but also "when stress is generated by an attempt to deceive".

Micro-tremors are present in normal relaxed speech but disappear when the subject is stressed and, it is assumed, lying. What impact the pain of dealing with a local authority call centre has on a person's voice is not yet clear.

VRA technology has been quite widely used in the US, along with full polygraph tests, but with mixed results. It was previously trialled by Harrow Council.

Lambeth claims the technology will not only detect fraud but also "cut bureaucracy" and allow genuine claims to be processed more quickly.

The pilot starts this autumn.

*A PR for Lambeth got in touch to explain the deal is with Capita not KPMG. Lambeth has signed a separate fraud contract with KPMG which was mentioned in the voice recognition press release.

The press release outlining the contract with KPMG is here. The release on voice recognition is not currently available on Lambeth's website.

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