Freedom, democracy and transparency Pirate Party

“Video lie detector” for travelers: Patrick Breyer sues EU for keeping the iBorderCtrl project secret

The EU is funding the development of a “video lie detector” to detect deception by immigrants through video recordings of their faces. Because the EU is keeping information on this scientifically highly controversial project secret, civil liberties activist and Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament, Dr. Patrick Breyer, has filed a complaint with the EU Court of Justice.

The research project iBorderCtrl, funded by the EU with 4.5 million €, is to close Europe’s borders off by using “artificial intelligence”: In the future, people willing to travel to Europe would be obliged to take a lie detector test at home in front of a webcam or their smartphone cam. Based on their facial expressions and behavior when answering standard questions, technology would evaluate whether they are telling the truth. The travelers Facebook profiles and other activities on social networks would also be included in the assessment.

Whether such video lie detection technology works is highly controversial. This is probably the reason why an ethics consultant took a close look at the project. However, the EU Commission refuses to give the public access to the ethics report, as well as to a legal assessment, to much of the project’s public relations strategy and to the project’s results, all financed from taxpayers money. Breyer’s request for these documents has been rejected by the EU research agency REA on the grounds that the ethics report and PR strategy are “commercial information” of the companies involved and of “commercial value”.

Dr. Patrick Breyer is now suing the EU before the EU Court of Justice and demands disclosure of the project documents (Case T-158/19).

The reasons given for the secrecy demonstrate: It is all about economical profit

explains Breyer and adds:

Regarding this highly dangerous technology the transparency interests of the scientific community and the public must take precedence over private profit interests. Systems for detecting conspicuous behaviour gradually generate a uniform society of passive people who just don’t want to attract attention. Such a dead surveillance society is not worth living in.

Breyer continues:

I am convinced that this pseudo-scientific security hocus-pokus will not detect any terrorists. For stressed, nervous or tired people, such a suspicion-generator can easily become a nightmare. In Germany lie detectors are not admissible as evidence in court precisely because they do not work. We need to put an end to the EU-funded development of technologies for monitoring and controlling law-abiding citizens ever more closely!

Breyer expects the Court will deal with his case before the end of the year.

A few years ago Breyer successfully took the EU Commission to court over its refusal to hand over documents concerning the indiscriminate retention of the entire population’s communications data (case C-213/15 P).

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