It wasn’t long ago that I posted on something similar to this, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that our body language and vocal intonations will be read, analyzed, and judged to be either truthful or deceptive. It’s a slippery slope down from here…
Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, arrives at the gloomy US border post in Nogales, Arizona, early one winter morning wearing an expression of mildly pained concentration.
He got up before dawn and now looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else. In the immigration lanes downstairs, a procession of pickups and SUVs nudge dejectedly in from Mexico, taillights blinking through a relentless drizzle. Bersin arrived late, and he seems in no mood to assess the state of the art in automated psychophysiological evaluation technology. Yet there it is, pushed up against the wall of a cramped back office at the DeConcini Port of Entry: a gray metal box about the size and shape of an ATM, with two softly glowing video monitors, one on top of the other.
Bersin, a self-assured bureaucrat and a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford with Bill Clinton, approaches the device. The lower monitor displays an icon of an oversize red button; the upper screen shows the head and shoulders of a smoothly rendered, computer-generated young man blinking and occasionally suffering a slight electronic shudder. He appears to be in his twenties and has an improbably luxuriant head of blue-black hair combed back in a sumptuous pompadour. This is the Embodied Avatar, the personification of the latest software developed to help secure the nation’s frontiers by delivering what its creator calls “a noninvasive credibility assessment”—sifting dishonest travelers from honest ones. Which is to say, this late-model Max Headroom is a lie detector.
Bersin taps the red button to start the test, and in an agreeable Midwestern voice, the avatar asks Bersin a series of questions.
“Are you a citizen of the United States of America?”
“Yes,” Bersin says.
“Have you visited any foreign countries in the past five years?”
“Do you live at the address you listed on your application?”
When the interview is over, Bersin turns to the other people in the room—his entourage, a delegation from the Canadian border agency, and the engineers who are anxiously overseeing this most critical test yet of their invention.
One technician explains to Bersin how the kiosk has instantly analyzed his responses, displayed on a rubber-jacketed iPad and broken down into categories of risk: green, yellow, and red. Bersin’s mask of barely suppressed boredom does not crack.
But then the technician points out that one of his answers is flagged in red: The machine is suspicious about his address. Bersin acknowledges that, yes, what he usually describes as his home is not actually where he lives, and that he was thinking about something else when he was answering—it’s just that he has a work residence in Washington, DC, but of course his family home remains back in San Diego and —
Bersin’s counterpart from Canada, a former intelligence officer, interrupts, cracking an interrogator’s indulgent smile: “Do you have a lawyer?”
Afterward, Jay Nunamaker, the sardonic computer engineer overseeing the Embodied Avatar project, allows himself a low chuckle. “I don’t think it could have gone better,” he says. Within a few hours, the young man with the improbable hair is interviewing members of the public. The first field tests of the US government’s state-of-the-art computer-controlled lie-detection device have begun.
read the rest here: Wired