Nemesysco Controversy Roundup

Israeli lie detector company Nemesysco has issued a press release responding to  Professors Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda’s article, “Charlatanry in Speech Science: A Problem to Be Taken Seriously,” which laid bare in devastating detail the pseudoscientific nature of Nemesysco’s lie detection “technology.” It should be noted that Nemesysco’s press release opens with a misleading characterization of Erksson & Lacerda’s article:

We wish to clarify our position with regard to the so-called ‘scientific research’ written by Professors Lacerda and Eriksson and published in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law in December 2007, but later withdrawn.

In fact, the article has not been withdrawn, rescinded, or otherwise disavowed by the journal that published it. Rather, the publisher (rather cravenly, in our opinion) withdrew the on-line availability of the article in response to legal threats from Nemesysco’s lawyers. For background, including part of the correspondence between Nemesysco and the publisher, see Nemesysco Founder Amir Liberman Is a Charlatan on this blog.

The “Ministry of Truth” blog, which has been following the  saga particularly as it pertains to the use of Nemesysco’s lie detection software in the United Kingdom (where it is marketed as “Voice Risk Analysis”), provides a point-by-point critique of Nemesysco’s press release.

See also Professor Lacerda’s 12 March 2009 blog entry, LVA-technology and Nemesysco’s official statement, in which he responds to an earlier released statement by Nemesysco in response to his and Professor Eriksson’s article.

Also on 12 March 2009, the BBC in an article titled reported that Nemesysco’s software failed to work in a trial by council-run job center:

Genuine job seekers fail lie test
Voice-risk analyser software
The trial of the system by councils will continue to 2010

Lie detectors are unlikely to be used in job centres after genuine benefits claimants were wrongly identified as “risky” during a pilot project.

Some councils are testing a phone-based system – Voice Risk Analysis – to help process benefit claims.

The system analyses voice stress levels and can identify liars, it is claimed.

When tried in a job centre in Nottinghamshire, almost two thirds of applicants initially considered high risk were found to be genuine.

Officials said there were no plans to roll out the system to more job centres.

Income support

The technology was first used in the insurance industry but began to be adopted by local authorities in 2007.

People found to be high risk are given further interviews before any action is taken.

Several councils have said they have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in fraudulent claims.

But last year in Nottinghamshire some callers making applications over the phone for jobseekers’ allowance and income support had their voice patterns screened.

Technology question

Figures seen by the BBC reveal only 37% of those initially identified as high risk had their benefits reduced after further investigation. Almost a third of those classed by the system as low risk eventually had their benefits reduced.

The Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP) said there were no plans at the moment to use Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) in any more job centres and no claimants lost benefits on the basis of voice screening alone.

A spokesperson said: “Currently, VRA is not being tested in Jobcentre Plus, but JCP remains interested in the ongoing local authority trials.

“The DWP will consider the emerging findings from these before deciding on further trials or any extension of the use of the technology.”

The pilot programme in councils will continue until 2010.

Nemesysco’s Voice Risk Analysis doesn’t work. There’s no need for the UK government to continue squandering public monies on it. The Ministry of Truth blog reports on the basis of documents obtained under the (UK) Freedom of Information Act that the Department of Public Works has spent upward of 2 million pounds sterling on Nemesysco’s quack technology.

Also on 12 March 2009, the Guardian’s Charles Taylor reported and blogged insightfully about the Department of Public Works’ trial of Nemesysco’s voice-based lie detector. The Ministry of Truth blog follows up with an entry titled, Purnell’s Lie Detector – What the Guardian Didn’t Say.

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