Liar, liar, email on fire: the security value of lie detecting algorithms

Researchers have developed a method of identifying linguistic clues in electronic communications that could point to possible cases of deception

The paper, ‘Untangling a Web of Lies: Exploring Automated Detection of Deception in Computer-Mediated Communication’, is about to be published in the Journal of Management Information Systems. It reveals how, by applying automated text analysis to an archive of emails to assess the ability of word use (at the micro-level), message development (at the macro-level) and intertextual exchange cues (at the meta-level), the algorithm can detect the severity of deception being perpetrated within a business framework.

In other words, if you’ll pardon the pun, things such as the use of personal pronouns, unnecessary adjectives, over-structured arguments, minimal self-deprecation and increased patterns of flattery all point towards deception. SC spoke to a member of the research team, Dr Tom van Laer from Cass Business School which is part of City University London, who told us who the research was aimed at. “Consumer watchdogs can use this technology to assign a ‘possibly lying’ score to advertisements of a dubious nature,” Dr van Lear said. “Security companies and national border forces can use the algorithm to assess documents, such as visa applications and landing cards, to better monitor compliance with access and entry rules and regulations.”

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