If you walk into the polygraph exam room and notice a video recording device, that’s normal. No one’s trying to spy on you; it’s part of the examiners’ processes to record your session. It might seem creepy when they turn on the camera, but we assure you there’s a method behind the madness.
So, why do examiners record your polygraph session? What’s the purpose of having video evidence of questioning you, and is it even legal? This post unpacks everything you need to know about this side of the polygraph exam.
Understanding the Examiner’s Role During the Polygraph Exam
The polygraph examiner plays a central role in the testing process. While you’re the subject of questioning, it’s up to the examiner to ensure everything goes smoothly during your session. The video recording protects you and gives the examiner the material they need to work within their post-analysis session.
When you arrive at the exam room and walk inside, the polygraph examiner greets you, and their job is to make you feel at ease. They understand that most of the people they meet in the exam room are nervous.
It’s natural to feel somewhat intimidated and anxious about taking a polygraph. We’ve all done illegal or bad things in our lives, nobody’s perfect, and the examiner realizes this. They’ll explain that they aren’t interested in invading your privacy. Everything that goes on in the exam room pertains to the reason why you’re there.
If you have a weekend fetish for roleplaying with your partner, they don’t want to know about that and won’t ask you about it. The polygraph examiners stick to a script of carefully curated questions that they present you with before you even reach the exam room.
If you are anxious or feel uneasy about taking the lie detector test, speak to the examiner. They’ll answer your questions and make you feel comfortable with everything before they wire you up and start the exam.
What Is the Position of the Video Recorder in the Polygraph Exam?
The examiner will start the video recording before they sit down to administer the exam. They’ll notify you they’re doing so, and if you ask why they’re recording the session, they’ll explain why. Typically, the video recording device is a standalone camera. But some examiners will use devices attached to their laptops.
In most cases, the video camera will sit off to the right or left of you, depending on the exam room’s configuration. The camera will have a full view of your face and body during the test. The examiner does this so they can register your responses to questions as you answer them.
The video camera is fully charged before the test, and there’s no chance it will fail during the exam session. The examiner won’t position the camera out of your field of view, so let them know if it makes you uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, they can’t turn off the camera or move it to the side of your head; it’s vital that they record every aspect of the session.
Why Do Examiners Record the Polygraph Session? – For the Examinee’s Protection
So, why does the examiner record the session in the first place? Do they enjoy watching you squirm with anxiety during the exam? Not at all, it’s a vital component of the polygraph test, and we’ll explain why. First, the video recording is for your protection. It’s a way of proving that the polygraph examiner did everything correctly when administering the exam.
With a video recorder, you can be sure that the examiner follows protocol because they’re being watched as much as you. For instance, let’s say you feel uncomfortable with the situation halfway through the exam.
You have a right to ask the polygraph examiner to stop the test and let you leave the exam room. They are not authority figures and have no right to keep you there against your will. If the examiner refuses your request, you can take legal action against them for breaking the procedure.
However, you’ll need proof to back up your claim. You’ll lodge a complaint with the examiners’ company, and their supervisor will review the recording of the session. If they discover you were telling the truth and the examiner refuses to let you go, it allows the polygraph company to take action against the examiner.
As much as the manager will wish they didn’t have a recording, due to the liability case they’ll have to settle, they’re under obligation to show the US Labor Department the recording. The video evidence bolsters your claims of negligence and mistreatment under the examiner’s watch.
Why Do Examiners Record the Polygraph Session? – The Examiner Watches the Screen
The second reason the examiner records the session is to help them with the post-exam analysis of the test. During the lie detector test, the examiner watches their laptop screen. The screen features a software program designed to collect physiological data from the instrumentation attached to your body.
The software presents this data in chart format for the examiner. They pay close attention to the charts as they ask you questions. If the body activates the fight-or-flight response, the software reads this reaction, presenting it as abnormalities in the charts. The examiner picks up this information, interpreting it as deception.
The polygraph examiner won’t take their eyes off the charts during the exam. They don’t ask a question and look at you; they stare at their screen. The screen gives them all the information they need to make a judgment about the honesty of your responses.
If they ask you a question during the session they feel is deceptive, they’ll keep asking you and note your responses. In some instances, the examiner may tell you that they register a problem with one of your responses. They’ll ask you why you think that the device is picking up deceptive behavior and give you a chance to explain.
If your explanation is reasonable, they’ll reframe the question to see if your physiological response changes when you answer them. If it doesn’t, they’ll move on with the exam, knowing that the video recorder is watching your movements.
Video Recording – Facilitating Test Review and Analysis
When you finish the polygraph exam, the examiner won’t tell you if you passed or not, even if you ask. If they feel one or more of your responses were inauthentic, presenting possible deception, they’ll review the session data later at their office.
This is where the video recording of your session comes into play. The examiner has over six years of study in their field and many hundreds or thousands of exams under their belt. During their training, the examiner learns to read the software and charts for signs of deception.
After leaving the exam venue, the examiner returns to their office, where they review your session. They’ll look at the points in the exam where they think you displayed possible deceptive answers. This time, they aren’t as interested in watching the charts as they know what the data says.
Instead, they’ll watch the video recording of your physical responses to their questioning. Besides being experts at reading polygraph software, the examiner also has training in analyzing body language.
Body language describes your body’s movements, gestures, and facial micro-expressions, signaling deception. The video recording gives them the visual data they need to analyze your body language.
If you’re lying, they’ll notice things like lifting in the corners of your mouth or subtle drops in your shoulders during your response. Most of us are unaware of these body language cues we present during the tests.
Body language is an entire science in itself. It takes years of study, training, and analysis of visual cues for the examiner to notice micro-expressions in your face and the gestures you make under pressure. Most people will not see these cues, and they go unnoticed.
However, the examiner is well aware of them, and they stand out like a sore thumb to a trained eye. After carefully analyzing the video recording, they have the evidence they need to determine if you were lying to them or just feeling nervous.
A good example of micro-expressions and a professional’s ability to read them is in the TV show, “Lie to ME,” featuring Tim Roth. In the series, Roth plays the part of a detective with an expert ability to notice micro-expressions. Micro-expressions tell a lot about what the person thinks and feels when making them.
Along with recording the visual expressions you make during the session, the video recording presents the examiner with audio cues. For instance, the pitch or presentation of your voice may change during the session when you act deceptively.
The examiner notes their findings in their report, presenting them to your employer in written format.
Video Recording – Providing Evidence in Legal Proceedings
The next reason examiners record the polygraph session is to gather legal evidence against you. Typically, this is only for cases involving criminals. For instance, polygraph examiners working in the public sector often interview sex offenders.
The polygraph examiner will sometimes have to testify in court during cases. They assist the prosecution with building a case against the defendant. While polygraphs are not admissible as evidence in court, they are permitted if the exam results corroborate other evidence in the case.
For example, suppose the sex offender breaks down under questioning and confesses to their crimes. In that case, the video recording could provide the prosecutor with substantiated evidence that the defendant admitted to the crimes they’re accused of committing.
The video recording will be logged into evidence, becoming a vital part of the prosecutor’s case. It’s important to note that polygraph procedures differ in the public and private sectors.
While the polygraph examiner is bound by certain rules and a code of ethics, they don’t have the same limitations on criminal proceedings as private sector exams. “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA) protects the employee’s interests during a company testing procedure, but these protections don’t apply in criminal cases.
Can the Polygraph Examiner Share the Video Recording with My Employer?
Yes, the polygraph examiner may share the video evidence they collect with your employer in their report. The examiner may or may not show the entire session to your employer. In most cases, they’ll just show clips of the times when they thought you were acting deceptively and explain the visual clues leading to their conclusions.
However, the employer doesn’t receive a copy of the recording. The examiner stores the recording to prevent privacy leaks. If someone in the company were to hack the management’s computer, they would have access to a database of recordings compromising employee privacy rights.
Privacy is a big deal in the EPPA, and neither the employer nor the examiner may share the recordings with third parties. If they do, they violate the EPPA, exposing them to action by the US Labor Department.
The examiner may not share the recording with prospective employers or show it to anyone outside of top management. While the boss can see your recording or clips of it, they may not show it to lower-level managers if they violate the EPPA.
As you can see, there are many reasons the examiner may record your polygraph session. They do so to protect your employee’s rights and to bolster their case of deception against you. The recording is an important point of evidence in criminal cases and private-sector examinations.
Recording your session is legal, and you can’t ask the polygraph examiner to turn off the camera because it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you feel anxious about being recorded during your session, remember that the camera is there as much for your safety and protection as it is to work against you in cases of potential deception.
The camera is your ally, not your enemy unless you have something to hide. If that’s the case, the polygraph examiner will use the recording to analyze your body language, bolstering the examiner’s case for proving your deceptive behavior.