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Lie Detector Company Threatens Critical Scientists With Suit 367

Posted by timothy
from the slapp-ing-them-around dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Swedish newspaper DN reports that the Israeli company Nemesysco has sent letters to researchers at the University of Stockholm, threatening legal action if they do not stop publishing findings (Google translation). An article called 'Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously' was pulled by the publisher after threats of a libel lawsuit." Online translations can be a little wonky; if your Swedish is as bad as mine, this English-language article describes the situation well.
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Lie Detector Company Threatens Critical Scientists With Suit

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  • How it works... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Smidge207 (1278042) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:23PM (#26658719) Journal

    Nemesysco's Poly-Layered Voice Analysis measures 18 parameters of speech in real-time for interrogators at police, military and secret-services agencies. Its accuracy as a lie detector has proven to be less important than its ability to more quickly pinpoint for interrogators where there are problems in a subject's story. Officers then can zero in much more quickly with their traditional interrogation techniques.

    The software measures voice for a variety of parameters including deception, excitement, stress, mental effort, concentration, hesitation, anger, love and lust. It works prerecorded, over the phone and live, the company said. V Entertainment recommends it for screening phone calls, checking the truthfulness of people with whom you deal or gauging romantic interest.

    The display can show each measured parameter in a separate window, with real-time traces of instantaneous measurements while flashing the overall for each parameter, such as "false probable," "high stress" and "SOS." Ultimately, the company plans to offer versions of its detectors for cell phones, dating services, teaching aids, toys and games.

    =Smidge=

  • english article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:24PM (#26658749)
  • Abstract... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigGar' (411008) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:34PM (#26658895) Homepage

    Here's the abstract of the article from http://www.equinoxjournals.com/ojs/index.php/IJSLL/article/view/3775 [equinoxjournals.com]

    ABSTRACT

    A lie detector which can reveal lie and deception in some automatic and perfectly reliable way is an old idea we have often met with in science fiction books and comic strips. This is all very well. It is when machines claimed to be lie detectors appear in the context of criminal investigations or security applications that we need to be concerned. In the present paper we will describe two types of âoedeceptionâ or âoestress detectors" (euphemisms to refer to what quite clearly is known as âoelie detectorsâ). Both types of detection are claimed to be based on voice analysis but we found no scientific evidence to support the manufacturersâ(TM) claims. Indeed, our review of scientific studies will show that these machines perform at chance level when tested for reliability. Given such results and the absence of scientific support for the underlying principles it is justified to view the use of these machines as charlatanry and we argue that there are serious ethical and security reasons to demand that responsible authorities and institutions should not get involved in such practices.

    I wasn't able to find a copy of the paper itself.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:42PM (#26658995)
    The article was published in and withdrawn by "The international journal of speech, language and the law", presumably not a Swedish entity.
  • by Zironic (1112127) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:43PM (#26659019)

    It was a British journal.

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:48PM (#26659109)

    I also find it funny, and sad, that a Swedish entity caved so easily to a legal threat from outside the country (and from outside the country's legal system).

    To be clear: the researchers are Swedish, but the publisher which caved to the legal threat was in the UK (Equinox [equinoxpub.com]). From TFA:

    In the autumn, Equinox, the British publisher of the magazine, were canvassed by the Israeli company Nemesysco Limited, a manufacturer of lie detectors. Following this the company demanded that the article be withdrawn, which the publishers duly did.

    Your point remains: it's sad that a UK publisher caved so easily to what appears to be a rather baseless accusation. (The article isn't libelous; merely factual.) Luckily the Swedish researchers are doing a good job distributing the information anyways.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @04:48PM (#26659117) Homepage

    gotten to the point now where

    It got that point sometime in the 1920's in almost all states, since polygraphs didn't meet the Frye Standard [wikipedia.org] for evidence. Basically, in the scientific community at-large thinks you are full of shit, you are de-fact full of shit.

    Now we use the Daubert Standard, that looks at relevance and peer-reviewed reliability. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:A Simple Solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:04PM (#26659361)

    Keep in mind that the company is not merely disputing the results of the research. They are claiming libel, which requires maliciousness or deception on the part of the researchers.

    That is true in the USA and most civilized countries, but not in the UK.

    The UK is the easiest place to sue someone for libel and win.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:12PM (#26659445)

    Text is here: http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:4x3raI0CVjoJ:www.ling.gu.se/konferenser/iafpa2006/Abstracts/Eriksson_IAFPA%25202006.pdf+&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us [74.125.95.132]

    Contains:

    This is the html version of the file http://www.ling.gu.se/konferenser/iafpa2006/Abstracts/Eriksson_IAFPA%202006.pdf [ling.gu.se].
    Google automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
    Page 1
    Proceedings, IAFPA 2006, Department of Linguistics, Göteborg University
    Charlatanry and fraud - an increasing problem for forensic
    phonetics?
    Anders Eriksson
    Department of Linguistics, Göteborg University, Sweden
    anders.eriksson@ling.gu.se
    In my talk I will describe one case of charlatanry and one case of fraud in forensic phonetics.
    Charlatanry can take different forms. One type is when someone appears as an expert without
    having the necessary qualifications or no qualifications at all. Another form is when some kind of
    physical device is used or marketed which is based on principles for which there is no scientific
    support. This is nothing new. The use of voiceprints is a classical case of this type. Charlatans often
    exploit the fact that people are easily impressed by advanced technology. Today the methods are
    often claimed to have been made possible only because of recent advances in computer technology.
    The following two quotes may serve to illustrate my point: "enhanced by the rapid advancements in
    personal computer technology", "the worlds most advanced application of this core frequency
    based technology". This is how both products I will present here are described by those who market
    them although in reality they are very unsophisticated products from a technological point of view.
    By fraud I will refer to methods or devices based on principles which are so obviously false that
    there can be no doubt that the people who produce them or use them must be aware of it. The
    second example is of this kind.
    A lie detector which can reveal lie and deception in some automatic and perfectly reliable way is an
    old idea we have often met with in science fiction books and comic strips. This is all very well. It is
    when machines claimed to be lie detectors appear in the context of criminal investigations that we
    need to be concerned. Both examples presented here belong in this category. They are of particular
    interest for forensic phonetics because they are both said to be based on analysis of the human
    voice. The basic idea behind "lie detectors" based on voice analysis is that there are properties in
    the voice signal that may be reliably correlated with lie or deception.
    A gadget called Voice Stress Analyzer (VSA) or Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE) has a history
    that goes back to the seventies. In the sixties it was discovered that in larger muscles like the biceps
    there is involuntary tremor, called micro tremor, with a frequency in the 8 to 12 Hz range. This
    gave rise to speculations that the same phenomenon might be present in the larynx muscles and that
    it may affect the voice source frequency. In particular it was suggested that the tremor might vary
    as a function of stress in the speaker. Before anybody had a chance to investigate the possible
    occurrence of micro tremor in the voice, the first "lie detector" based micro tremor in the voice
    source appeared. (See. Rice, 1978). In the years to follow, many researchers tested voice stress
    analyzers based on these ideas, but with largely negative results. Hollien surveyed the literature in
    1987 and concluded that: "the ability of voice analyzers to detect stress from speech-or to identify
    spoken deception-have been negative or "mixed" in nature". He a

  • Now FOX has this propaganda puff piece for the TSA called "Lie to Me" going...

    Have you actually watched the show? If anything there's constant disdain for lie detectors and other mechanical lie detection techniques, favoring microexpression interpretation. I'd hardly call it propaganda, just a cross between "The Mentalist" type shows and CSI.

  • by unixluv (696623) <unixluv@gmail . c om> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:50PM (#26659897)

    There are exceptions in the Federal Government (including DOD) that allows it.

    Evidently, former President George "Stalin" Bush thought it was a good idea to expand the program.

    http://antipolygraph.org/blog/?p=212 [antipolygraph.org]

  • Re:How it works... (Score:4, Informative)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:58PM (#26659977) Journal

    Hey now! I had a friend who used to work as a phone sex operator (genuinely). She was not unattractive. She did, however, read clothing catalogues whilst conducting phone sessions. Presumably a let down to know she was choosing cardigans whilst you got off.
  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#26659997) Journal

    Charlatary : a person who makes false claims.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Charlatanry [thefreedictionary.com]

  • Re:A Simple Solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:01PM (#26660027) Journal

    They are claiming libel, which requires maliciousness or deception on the part of the researchers.

    It would if the case were tried in a U.S. court. Since this case involves Swedish scientists criticising an Israeli company in an English journal, I somehow doubt that U.S. rules apply.

    Under English defamation law [wikipedia.org], defamatory statements are presumed false unless proven true, and the 'actual malice' standard from U.S. jurisprudence is applied quite a bit differently. The much lower bar of simple 'negligence' is all that is required to libel private individuals.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:17PM (#26660247)

    He's right. Lie detectors do not detect lies. They detect stress levels while making a statement which, when measured and compared against a previously established baseline, allows on to *estimate* truthfulness.

    The problem is, if you believe what you are saying is true, you can unknowingly tell a lie and pass.

    The problem is, if you feel no remorse or guilt when lying, you can tell a lie and pass.

    If your normal rest state is one of extreme stress, the difference between your baseline and "lie state" may not indicate you are lying when you are.

    Many types of drugs interfere with lie detectors.

    Lie detectors are not very reliable. There are good reasons lie detectors are not admissible in court. They still make for good investigative tools. Many police detectives do not understand how flawed and easily fooled lie detectors truly are. They are a good tool, that's it.

  • by lgw (121541) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#26660743) Journal

    From TFA:

    By fraud I will refer to methods or devices based on principles which are so obviously false that
    there can be no doubt that the people who produce them or use them must be aware of it.

    Seems reasonable to me.

  • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:16PM (#26660837)
    Not so absolute, unfortunately. In the United States and (most of) Canada, you're covered. Plenty of other countries, it's not.
  • by davecb (6526) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:55PM (#26662349) Homepage Journal

    Just to clarify: these are so-called "voice stress analyzers", not polygraphs. The latter are capable of producing enough data that a trained person can catch many lies, and are the devices commonly used by police, but are generally not accepted by courts as evidence. Some people can beat them, others conversely always seem to be lying.

    Voice stress analyzers measure a single weak indicator, and are quite capable of both false positives and negatives, irrespective of the expertise of the user. They're also easy to use covertly, such as over a telephone line. Add that to inaccuracy and you have a recipe for a disaster.

    --dave

  • by terjeber (856226) on Friday January 30, 2009 @02:49AM (#26663453)

    it's sad that a UK publisher caved so easily to what appears to be a rather baseless accusation

    The sad part is not that they caved, they had no choice but to cave. British libel law is absurd in the extreme and tantamount to "accusation equals guilt". It is impossible for the publisher to defend itself.

    Hopefully, some day, Britain and a number of other European countries will learn the meaning of free speech. As of now, most of them have no clue what that means.

    When you allow people with appalling and disgusting opinions to hold them and express them, then, and only then do you have free speech. When someone can accuse you of libel, and it is your, as the accused, job to prove that you what you said was not libel, then you do not have free speech. Or a sane law for that matter - you can't prove a negative.

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday January 30, 2009 @05:38AM (#26664295)

    FTA:
    'At the same time, Nemesysco's actions have led to even greater media attention for the two Swedish professors' research. "It was hardly their intention. But since the article was withdrawn, I have received lots of mail and requests for copies of the article. The article would not have been read to this extent if the company had simply ignored it in silence," says Francisco Lacerda to the Dagens Nyheter.'

    So now, instead of the just the readers of some obscure journal, it's all over da Intertubes. Well done boys!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:13AM (#26664431)

    The reason for that is the messed UK libel laws.

  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:21AM (#26665173) Homepage

    Just to clarify: these are so-called "voice stress analyzers", not polygraphs. The latter are capable of producing enough data that a trained person can catch many lies

    Even the accuracy of polygraphs is highly questionable. The false positive rate is too high to genuinely say they "catch" anyone under any reasonable definition. I'd have a pretty good chance of catching the 10 liars in a group of 50 if I just selected all the people who looked uncomfortable during questioning. That wouldn't make my method valid. Polygraphy only works by scaring people into telling the truth. It's nothing more than theater [antipolygraph.org].

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