Tuesday, February 03, 2004


A recent article from Cognitive Liberty & Ethics sheds an ominous light on the concept of thought police. This takes lie detection to a whole new level.

Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, a startup with a controversial, almost science-fictionlike method of measuring brainwaves to detect lies or hidden thoughts, is moving from Iowa to try to build its business in Seattle.

The company's chairman and founder, Lawrence Farwell, said he is moving his six-person company this week so he can recruit from the area's pool of software developers and scientists.

More disturbing is the R & D.

He has tested the "brain fingerprinting" method in collaboration with the CIA and FBI, and some early results were published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences two years ago. Next month, he's speaking to the convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.

Farwell claims the product has 100 percent accuracy and is aggressively pursuing commercial applications but it's no stretch to see the Bush administration installing this in airports.

Wrye Sententia, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, said her organization is worried that demand is so strong for improved screening of terrorists in airports that brain-scanning technologies could be used against people's will and rushed into the market before being proven accurate.

"We're all for it if people can use it to clear their name of a crime, but it should be a voluntary use," Sententia said. "But what a person knows and thinks is private, and this technology really pushes the question of whether thoughts are private."

Frightening bit of technology that I hope fails to develop. It does cross my mind however, that hand held units would come in handy for the White House press corps.


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