In recent years, the European Union has stepped up the fight to protect its borders from terrorism and other security risks, approving measures such as the shared ETIAS Visa Waiver for Schengen Area countries. Now, to continue the progress made, the EU is funding a €45 million trial of artificial intelligence lie detectors called iBorderCtrl.
The technology has already been installed in EU border airports in Greece, Hungary, and Latvia for a six month trial period. If successful, Cyprus, Germany and Poland are all expected to adopt the EU lie detector in their airports soon after the trial ends.
ETIAS to strengthen the EU’s borders
Alongside the introduction of the EU border lie detector to improve security in Europe, the European Parliament has approved a proposal to implement a travel authorization system for the 26 Schengen Area member states.
Much like the ESTA system in the United States, the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) will pre-screen foreign visitors before arrival in Europe, allowing any public safety threats to be identified.
The visa waiver for ETIAS countries is due to come into effect by 2021. From then, citizens from 60 eligible nations will be expected to complete the quick and simple ETIAS Application online before tourism or business travel to the Schengen Area.
The ETIAS for Europe is a multiple-entry visa waiver valid for 3 years or until the corresponding passport expires. It permits the holder various 90-day stays within a 180-day period in any Schengen country, with free travel between member states also allowed.
The ETIAS requirements involve having a passport from an eligible country with a minimum validity of 6 months, as well as a valid debit or credit card to pay the ETIAS fee and a current email address at which to receive the approved visa.
Processing of the ETIAS will be relatively fast, with an average approval time of between 24-48 hours. Upon approval, the ETIAS is electronically linked to the applicant’s passport, which EU border officers will be able to view on their systems. Depending on the airport of their arrival, travellers with ETIAS will also have to pass through the AI lie detectors at EU borders.
How will the AI lie detectors work?
Travellers arriving from outside the European Union to an EU border airport will be soon be required to pass through the AI lie detector machines before admission to their country of destination. The technology consists of a display on which a computer-animated border guard will appear, matching the traveller’s gender, ethnicity, and language.
The automated official will ask a series of security questions, to which the traveller will need to respond while directly addressing a webcam which analyzes every small facial movement. After answering questions, including some about the contents of their luggage, the machine will then decide if the entrant is lying or not.
Travellers coming from outside the EU will also be required to scan copies of their passport, visa, and proof of funds. They will also be pre-screened and tagged as either low or high-risk before facing the EU border lie detector, with ‘high risk’ visitors then more thoroughly checked.
Human border officials will still maintain a presence alongside the AI lie detectors, using portable devices to verify the information and compare passport and any previously-held photos with those taken by the EU lie detector technology.
Can you trust lie detectors at the EU borders?
Lie detection is widely used in law enforcement in the USA, despite doubts over its reliability. For example, polygraph tests are not admissible as court evidence in the vast majority of jurisdictions because the nerves of the subject can greatly affect the result.
The new AI lie detector technology is considered to be far more reliable than a polygraph test, with EU authorities estimating that the machines have a rate of accuracy of around 76%, which is hoped to increase to roughly 85%.
However, the announcement of the trail system has already attracted its fair share of criticism. Some experts have called the new EU AI lie detector technology pseudoscience and many believe the system could deliver unfair outcomes.
Bruno Verschuere, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Amsterdam, has publicly expressed doubt about the scientific credibility of the machines. Verschuere has argued that the assumption that liars become stressed is largely unsubstantiated, and micro-expressions or fidgeting are not always sure signs.
Nevertheless, the developers of the technology have defended its credibility, arguing that the process is legitimate because various other factors help to provide the analysis of the traveller, not only the AI technology. Therefore, those arriving in Europe with ETIAS once it is implemented will no doubt get to experience the EU border lie detectors for themselves.