Journalists are Professional Cynics

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Journalists are professional cynics. If your mother says she loves you, we say: "Check it out." Now we can, and so can you -- for only $ 149.99! That's the price of certainly in love and life, brought to you by Trustier, a new software program that purports to turn your PC into a lie detector. Imagine its uses. Thinking of hiring this or that babysitter? Not sure your auto mechanics is entirely on the level about that $ 1,300 brake job? Is Honey really working later?

Thruster's marketers describe their product as a Personal Truth Verifier, different from its well known cousin, the polygraph. You know, that's the gritty real world lie detector where sweaty guys in fedoras wire you up under bright lights. Trustier is far more high-tech and user-friendly. You plug your phone into a simple little sensing device and connect it to your computer. Then the software takes over. According to the owner's Links Of London Bracelets manual, it uses "an ingenious new algorithm to detect vocal stress" and identifies shades of truth. Lying, it seems, produces subtle "micro tremors" of anxiety in one's vocal cords that normally go undetected but can be picked up by Trustier. With each sentence or response to a question, the system flashes a message: "Truth." "Inaccurate." "Slightly Inaccurate." "Subject Not Sure." "False." Little graphs and electronic squiggles chart your conversation like a sort of psychic seismometer.

Originally conceived by Israeli security to screen potential terrorists crossing the country's borders, Trustier might just as easily be used in the home or office, according to its developers. Businesses that are susceptible to telephone fraud are said to be Links Of London Jewelry especially interested -- banks, security types and financial investigators.

The big question is: does it work? Thomas Upscombe at the Center for the Digital Future in New York tried to trick Trustier, alternating deliberate lies with truths. They started off with the banalities of name, address and occupation. So far, so "true". Then came the weather. "Cold and drizzling," said Lipscomb, gazing out his window on a splendid spring day. "Truth," said Trustier. What is your wife's name? "Judy," came the reply, rather than Christine. "Truth" again. What color is the old gray mare? "Purple!" "False," declared Trustier, getting it right in a clueless way. And so it went, with correct readings about half the time. We would have done just as well flipping a coin.
This scares some people. "Our daily interactions with one Links Of London Charms another are now going to be subject to the imperfections of lie detection? That's chilling," says Barry Steinhardt, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Lipscomb worries about what might happen if insurers, home-mortgage lenders and credit-card companies begin using voice-analysis software to screen customers. Federal law bars polygraphs from courts and restricts their use in the workplace for good reason, he says "They don't work."

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