ATM, Meet KGB: New Russian Cash Machines Can Detect Lies


A new Russian ATM will make customers pay for lying.

A voice-measured polygraph to be installed in the electronic tellers of Russia's state-run Sberbank can tell if patrons are talking truth or hogwash in applying for a credit card or loan. The audio recognition technology is touted as the latest weapon against fraud -- but it has roots in the old Soviet Union. The inventor, Speech Technology Center, is contracted by the Federal Security Service, Russia's modern version of the KGB.

The ATM also takes fingerprints, scans identification such as passports, and logs a 3-D facial image. Sberbank officials said that it's the wave of the future and avoids privacy concerns because, one executive told The New York Times, "it doesn't climb into the client's brain." The Speech Technology Center suggested to the paper that the technology in question is already widespread.

Sberbank said the machines will eventually be placed in bank branches and shopping malls around the country, according to The Times.

But the get-up-close-and-personal ATM is already attracting complaints about Big Brother-like intrusion.

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"What kind of person so readily gives up so many biometric identifiers?" one post reads at "In one fail [sic] swoop, it gets your passport information, fingerprints, facial scan, voice and video samples, credit card information, and banking information. No thank you."

Pavel Medvedev, deputy chair of the Duma's committee on credit and financial institutions, said in the Christian Science Monitor that he didn't like the idea.

Remember when ATMs just dispensed money?

The newfangled version conducts an interrogation, er, interview, asking users "Are you employed?" and "At this moment, do you have any other outstanding loans?" The software detects subtle changes in voice timbre that typically occur when someone is lying.

U.S. banks are not working on any such means to verbally weed out fraudsters, Corporate Insight's Daniel Wiegand told The Times.

We can see why. It's one thing to persuade a population familiar with KGB-style surveillance to accept the technology. But to say it would fly in the United States without stiff opposition, well, we'd be lying.