Intercept investigative reporter Daniel Boguslaw reports on lobbying efforts by Converus Inc., which is attempting to market its EyeDetect “lie detector” to the federal government. Converus claims that EyeDetect is 88 to 90 percent accurate, a claim that is not supported by any independent peer-reviewed research. Excerpt:
A UTAH-BASED OUTFIT overseen by a former CIA consultant has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying intelligence and defense agencies, including the CIA and DHS, to adopt its automated lie detection technology, public lobbying disclosures reviewed by The Intercept show. Converus, Inc., boasts on its website that its technology has already been used for job screenings at American law enforcement agencies, corporate compliance and loss prevention in Latin America, and document verification in Ukraine. The company’s management team includes chief scientist John Kircher, a former consultant for the CIA and Department of Defense; Todd Mickelson, former director of product management at Ancestry.com; and Russ Warner, former CEO of the content moderation firm ContentWatch.
Warner told The Intercept that lobbying efforts have focused on changing federal regulations to allow the use of technologies other than the polygraph for lie detection. “The Department of Defense National Center of Credibility Assessment (NCCA) is in charge of oversight of validation and pilot projects throughout the U.S. government of new deception detection technologies,” Warner wrote in an email. “DoD Directive 5210.91 and ODNI Security Agent Directive 2 currently prohibit the use of any credibility assessment solution other than polygraph. For this reason, we have contacted government agencies to consider the use of EyeDetect and other new technologies.”
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Data published by OpenSecrets.org, upon which Intercept reporter Boguslaw relies, indicates that Converus paid $60,000 per year from 2016 to 2022 to the Washington, DC lobbying firm The Consilio Group. OpenSecrets.org data shows that agencies lobbied by Converus in 2022 include:
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Department of the Army
- Department of Defense
- Department of Homeland Security
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- National Security Agency
- White House
Policymakers should beware of snake oil solutions like EyeDetect. For related reading, see Wired magazine science writer Mark Harris’ 2018 article, “An Eye-Scanning Lie Detector Is Forging a Dystopian Future.”