Remmeber the Department of Work and Pensions’ voice analysis software that was going to catch benefit cheats? Well guess what… it doesn’t work:
In short, apart from scaring a few people into behaving a little more honestly, we reckoned that the system itself wouldn’t actually do what its developers, and Israeli company called Nemesysco, claimed it would do.
Today I ran across some rather intriguing additional information about Nemesysco and its proprietor, Amir Lieberman, in the form of a rather unusual academic paper by two Swedish researchers, Francisco Lacerda and Andrew Eriksson, published in 2007 in the International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, a magazine for voice experts working for the police and security services.
The paper is unusual, for one thing, because it appears to so enraged Lieberman that he’s written to the researchers’ publishers and indicated that Lacerda and Eriksson could be sued for libel if they publish any more papers on the same subject.
The paper, which reviews 50 years of research into the use of lie detectors, is entitled ‘Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously’, which should give a clue as to precisely why Lieberman is rather upset about it, but there’s more to this than just a title, as the paper goes to pay particular attention to Lieberman/Nemesysco’s LVA (”Layered Voice Analysis”) system, which the DWP is using via a third party supplier.
It appears that the DWP’s supplier, Nemesysco, is a one-man operation run by Amir Lieberman. While Nemesysco says the LVA software is “based on 8,000 mathematical algorithms applied to 129 voice frequencies”, it appears that on the contrary it is 500 lines of amateurishly-written Visual Basic, knocked up by Mr Lieberman who has no background in mathematics, computer science, linguistics or indeed any other academic discipline:
The entire program code comprises no more than 500 lines of code. With respect to its alleged mathematical sophistication, there is really nothing in the program that requires any mathematical insights beyond very basic secondary school mathematics.
Mr Lapidus interviewed Mr Liberman about his academic background and was told that he basically had none. He has no degree but has taken some courses in marketing at an Israeli open university. As we have explained above, the LVA is a simple program written in rather amateurishly used Visual Basic.
How much does this amateurishly written VB program cost? $25,000 a pop, although for that price Nemesysco generously throw in a laptop wioyth $2,000.
Conclusion: Amir Lieberman is either a fraudster or an incompetent (depending on whether he knows he’s selling rubbish). And the British government are an incompetent bunch of idiots for buying this rubbish.
UPDATE: more details.