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THE THOUGHT POLICE; Brain waves could be used to fight crime.

Byline: TOM WELLS

IT has been hailed as the latest weapon in the war on crime. Experts say brain fingerprinting could be the future of policing -as well as a tool for tackling predatory paedophiles.

A new device measures brain waves, and can indicate when somebody is not telling the truth.

Last week, one Midland MP called on the Home Secretary to investigate the breakthrough, which has already received funding from the American CIA.

TomWatson,LabourMP for West Bromwich East, asked David Blunkett if hewould consider aprocedure which is 10 times more accurate than a lie detector test and already popular in the US.

Brain fingerprinting was developed by American scientist Dr Larry Farwell three years ago and uses a highly-sensitive scanner to look directly into the brain.

Subjects are shown a series of photos, some relating to a crime scene or incident, and their brain waves are then measured byelectrodes taped to the scalp. Psychologists claim it could be used in the UK to vet applicants for teaching jobs or to treat suspected paedophiles.

'As it develops further, brain fingerprinting could be very useful,' said Glyn Humphreys, an expert in brain waves at the University of Birmingham.

'It could be used to detect paedophiles or to screen applicants for teaching jobs. It could even be used to vet school caretakers for example.

'The brain gives off waves of electrical activity which can be measured on the scalp. That actual technique is relatively welldeveloped. What is new is trying to read a response to an individual stimulus.

'But we are probably talking five years before this is reality in this country.'

Civil liberties groups say they are bitterly opposed to any use of brain fingerprinting in this country.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a privacy lawyer with civil rights group Liberty, said: 'This is a good example of discrimination law lagging behind science.

'For instance, a brain fingerprinting scan might show that someone has a certain sexual inclination. But just because you have that inclination it doesn't mean you will go out and fulfil it.

'The vast majority of people have barrier mechanisms telling them what is right and wrong. An internal mental image does not mean you should be treated as a sex offender.

'I would be very concerned if this were to be used to prevent people getting jobs, too. Liberty want a block on this technology until legislation catches up to police it properly.'

But Mr Watson told the Sunday Mercury: 'Brain fingerprinting is obviously in its infancy but it could have significant possibilities for fighting crime.

'This is a serious piece of new technology which we should look at. Of course it raises important civil liberties questions, but it needs full consideration.'

CAPTION(S):

BRAIN WAVE: Dr Larry Farwell, who developed the technique; TARGETS: criminals such as Ian Huntley
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 16, 2004
Words:470
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