Liar, Liar

By Amity Last edited 125 months ago
Liar, Liar
pinocchio.jpg

Council staff in Harrow, north London, must feel like maniacal puppeteers in the Theatre of Irony that is the Benefits Claim Office. And if they are the puppeteers, those claiming benefits fraudulently are soon to be their Pinocchios.

“Lie detectors will be used to help root out benefit cheats, Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton has said.

So-called "voice-risk analysis software" will be used by council staff to help identify suspect claims.

It can detect minute changes in a caller's voice which give clues as to when they may be lying.”

Watch their noses grow! It’s that easy.

The system supposedly identifies what a ‘normal caller’s’ voice sounds like and then establishes what deviates from that norm.

"This ensures it takes any natural variation, for example due to nerves or shyness, into account.

The software then looks for changes in voice tone and frequency and performs thousands of mathematical calculations to identify signs that someone could be lying."

Londonist is all for rooting out benefit cheats and sincerely hopes that this scheme works, but it seems a bit too, dare we say it, technical for any local council to carry out successfully. The equipment will inevitably malfunction and there’s always going to be some idiot high on a power trip who notices that 89-year-old Mrs. Johnston stuttered a bit on that last question (“Do you, or any illegal immigrants in your home, use electricity at peak hours? Yes? So you admit to housing illegal immigrants?! That’s it, you’re busted, lady) and will wrongly accuse some innocent people whilst letting the biggest cheats fall through the cracks. Because guess what, Harrow Council? If someone is ballsy enough to try to claim benefits they don’t deserve, they’re probably going to be pretty good at lying.

Now, pull you hands out of those socks, stop watching CSI: Las Vegas and get back to work.

Photo taken from lorenabuena's Flickr photostream

Last Updated 05 April 2007

Laura

A tad patronising to council staff, eh? Anyhow - just to point out a minor error - Benefits Agencies are run by people from the Department for Work and Pensions, and no doubt you've got something glibly derogatory to say about that section of the workforce too. Possibly something about lack of attention to detail or not fully researching their facts before making decisions?

Laura

Whoops - my mistake, it is local council officers rather than Benefits Agency staff. Still, doesn't mean it's not utterly patronising. I love Londonist, and read it often, so feel a little let down here.

Amity

Hi Laura,

I'm sorry you feel let down and patronised. I was simply using this example to satirise how the government is relying increasingly on technology that doesn't account for error, malfunction or unknown variables. There are very real consequences to this and I think some things, including benefits crucial to people's livelihood, are better left to human accountability.

Call me old fashioned, but if I were applying for benefits I'd like a human to assess my housing application, not a voice-recognition system. You are free to disagree, of course.