Public’s concern over Flintshire Council’s anti-fraud device

Reporter:

Lois Hough

A LIE detector-type device to fight benefit fraud in Flintshire has prompted concern from Leader readers.

Last week we reported that people who telephone Flintshire Council to make claims for housing and council tax benefits are being monitored by a Voice Risk Analyst (VRA) that detects changes in their voice if they are lying.

The device was introduced in Flintshire in 2008 as part of a national pilot scheme with the Department for Work & Pensions.

It records an average of 42,000 calls a year, works by measuring slight, inaudible changes in the human voice that indicate when a speaker delivers words under stress as an attempt to deceive.

Voice patterns are analysed and displayed on a computer.

Website user ‘a cahill’ thinks the technology is unreliable.

He said: “Given that most people are under stress when making a claim, it could be that they are wrongly accused of fraud.

“It could also be a breach of civil liberties if the person is not informed and gives consent to the process.”

And ‘karen’ said: “Maybe we should use Voice Risk Analysis for politicians and have the graphs running along the screen when they are speaking in parliment.”

‘Hen ddraig’ added: “I do hope that Flintshire remember to tell callers that their calls are being recorded.

“A legal requirement under telecommunications legislation.”

But ‘honey27’ thought VRA was a good idea.

They said: “If you have nothing to hide why would anybody complain about it? I think this is necessary as there are far too many freeloaders in this country.”

Kerry Feather, head of finance at Flintshire Council said: “The purpose of VRA is to assist the assessment officer to identify any potential risks associated with a claim for housing and/or council tax benefit via a telephone call.”

She added: “Only calls that are put through the VRA process are recorded and the data protection conventions are adhered to throughout this process.”

See full story in the Leader

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