A councillor from Cornwall Council has resigned in protest of the council’s use of lie detectors to help catch benefit cheats. We congratulate Councillor Ferguson for taking the the moral high ground when it comes to privacy and proportionality in councils.
Councillor Ferguson took exception to the Council signing up to a contract with Capita to provide “voice risk analysis” as part of a scheme to help combat benefit fraud. The contract comes at a cost of £50,000 with the Council promising that the system could save at least £1 million. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this technology actually even works.
It is simply astounding that Council’s continue to use this technology despite the evidence to show that it simply does not work. The Government tested the use of this technology in 2008 and found that it was no more reliable than flipping a coin. Even academics have even described it as being little better than astrology at detecting fraud. Surely if this technology actually worked and proved to be cost effective it would be rolled out across the country?
This is not the first time that we have raised how absurd the use of this technology is. In November last year we discussed the use of similar technology by Southwark Council and found that even after its use the council couldn’t prove that the technology had directly helped discover illegitimate benefit claimants.
Considering this lack of faith in the technology it is clear that Cornwall Council has completely wasted money on an illiberal and unproven technology. This sort of action stinks of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and perhaps it would be more useful to introduce more rigorous checks and testing before benefits are handed out.