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The Fight Over Which Uses of Artificial Intelligence Europe Should Outlaw

The Fight Over Which Uses of Artificial Intelligence Europe Should Outlaw

In 2019, guards on the borders of Greece, Hungary, and Latvia began testing an artificial-intelligence-powered lie detector. The system, called iBorderCtrl, analyzed facial movements to attempt to spot signs a person was lying to a border agent. The trial was propelled by nearly $5 million in European Union research funding, and almost 20 years of research at Manchester Metropolitan University, in the UK.

The trial sparked controversy. Polygraphs and other technologies built to detect lies from physical attributes have been widely declared unreliable by psychologists. Soon, errors were reported from iBorderCtrl, too. Media reports indicated that its lie-prediction algorithm didn’t work, and the project’s own website acknowledged that the technology “may imply risks for fundamental human rights.”

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This month, Silent Talker, a company spun out of Manchester Met that made the technology underlying iBorderCtrl, dissolved. But that’s not the end of the story. Lawyers, activists, and lawmakers are pushing for a European Union law to regulate AI, which would ban systems that claim to detect human deception in migration—citing iBorderCtrl as an example of what can go wrong. Former Silent Talker executives could not be reached for comment.

A ban on AI lie detectors at borders is one of thousands of amendments to the AI Act being considered by officials from EU nations and members of the European Parliament. The legislation is intended to protect EU citizens’ fundamental rights, like the right to live free from discrimination or to declare asylum. It labels some use cases of AI “high-risk,” some “low-risk,” and slaps an outright ban on others. Those lobbying to change the AI Act include human rights groups, trade unions, and companies like Google and…

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