Marketing to the World
When I was in graduate school, running data on a computer took hours of work filling out coding sheets, more hours punching computer cards, more hours putting in strict order cards which contained commands for the computer and cards which contained data, standing in line with the box of carefully arranged cards (often hundreds of them), giving them to the computer operator and then waiting for them to be run on a computer that took up a floor of a university building. Now, that same technology exists inside the computer I am typing on in the study of my house. What an amazing change.
It is almost impossible to overestimate the impact of these technological changes in our lives, on our society, and in the criminal justice system. One such change involves the detection of deceit. For years, the polygraph or "lie detector" reigned supreme in the field of truth detection, but now there is a new rival - Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA). While the polygraph measures changes in a person's body associated with stress - alterations in heart rate, breathing, and emotional sweating, the (CVSA) measures changes in voice frequency, which identifies stress that may indicate a lie. The CVSA is based on the concept that emotional stress induces measurable change into the human voice, and the various computer programs are designed to detect this change
The impetus for the development of the CVSA came from the military which wanted a "remote lie detector" - a machine that was more transportable than the polygraph and less awkward to use. Three retired Army Officers developed the first version of the CVSA and subsequent improvements have resulted in one version which resides inside a laptop computer that weighs around eight pounds.
CVSA has numerous advantages over the polygraph..
These advantages as well as an active marketing campaign by the distributors of CVSA technology have made them popular with law enforcement in this country. David Hughes, executive director of the National Institute for Truth Verification says that more than 600 police agencies in the United States use the more expensive voice- stress analyzers costing from $5,000 to $8,000 instead of the polygraph
But, the validity of the CVSA is far from settled. According to those who market CVSA to police agencies, "the CVSA has proven itself as a reliable cost effective means of determining a subject's truthfulness." But, a widely cited Department of Defense Polygraph Institute report stated that there was "...no credible evidence in evidence furnished by manufacturers, the scientific literature or our own research that voice stress analysis is an effective investigative tool for determining deception." The report stated that the polygraph is "far more accurate," has evolved over one hundred years of practice and research, and "has established validity supported by published research."
Doubts about the validity of even the polygraph have generally kept lie detector results out of Courts, and five years ago, the polygraph test and CVSAs was banned for pre-employment purposes. An exception was made for government agencies and armored car companies. This made law enforcement and the military the main market for CVSAs. None of the local agencies I talked with, however, used CVSA for the screening of applicants.
The restrictions on the use of the CVSA in this country and doubts about its validity have caused marketers to seek out buyers in other countries where there is less scientific literature and no bans on pre-employment screening. One of the two major manufacturers of CVSA technology, The Diogenes Company, now has a permanent office in Colombia and is investigating the possibility of establishing one in Mexico. Diogenes has distributed its CVSA "The Lantern" in various countries including Colombia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. A small Israeli high-technology company is marketing a CD-rom "Truster" for the Israeli military to be used in stopping terrorists at Israeli checkpoints.
Inexpensive, easy to use without extensive training, transportable, widely marketed - it not difficult to see why this technology has been picked up with such enthusiasm in the Middle East and Latin America. What is more difficult to determine is whether these countries will be able to oversee the use of these devices. There are two primary areas of concern - privacy and due process, and control of access.
One of the main reasons for marketing in these countries is that they have no restrictions on the use of CVSA in pre-employment screening or investigation. In addition, since civil rights are less protected in these countries, there is concern that the results will be used to make arrests, detain suspects and prosecute in court. Finally, even though the U.S. government requires that each device is registered to an approved "end user," a measure designed to make sure that they don't fall into the wrong hands (the drug cartels for example). We have seen numerous cases over the years of forged end-user certificates. There is no guarantee that the appropriate distribution of the product can be guaranteed.
As usual, technology outpaces controls.