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Big Brother's glasses

Charles Moulton should have thought of this. A pair of lie-detector glasses would have been the perfect accessory for his comic book heroine, Wonder Woman.

But unlike Wonder Woman, the lie-detector glasses are not fiction. V Entertainment of New York is marketing the mini lie detector that, unlike traditional polygraphs, analyzes a person's voice with a tiny signal-processing engine.

Wonder Woman wouldn't misuse them. Other law enforcement agents, or any potential users, might not be so pure. Hidden lie detectors reek of Big Brother. And the fact that their developers claim an accuracy rate of 70 percent to 90 percent would be little comfort to the other 10 percent to 30 percent.

The use of such a powerful tool would have to be circumscribed, just as the use of traditional lie detectors is controlled. A reasonable exception, for example, might be their use by airport workers screening passengers. But even then, suspicions raised by the lie detector should be buttressed by other clues.

Of course, Charles Moulton might disagree. His alter ego, psychologist William Moulton Marston, also was a creator. As Mr. Marston used the pen name Moulton while entertaining comic readers, he used his knowledge of human physiology to create the original lie detector. Then, in the 1940s, he tirelessly advocated the use of his invention. But carefully limiting the use of lie detectors was a good idea then. It remains a good idea today.

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