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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 13:07 GMT
Software can spot digital deceivers
posting a letter, BBC
That letter could be scrutinised by lie detecting software
Careful when composing your CV and sending it off to potential employers, they could be using software to spot if you are stretching the truth about your achievements.

credit card being swiped, BBC
Data mining is used to spot credit card fraud
A US company has developed a program that is said to be able to sift through text to spot when people are lying or confused about facts.

The software works by spotting the changes in writing style that emerge when someone is concealing the truth.

The program is likely to be used by companies that receive lots of e-mails or documents and want to speed up their handling of them.

Mining messages

Lie detectors, or polygraphs, that can sometimes help spot an uttered untruth have been around since the opening decades of the 20th Century, but ones that can analyse written fibs are rarer.

Now, software maker The SAS Institute claims its Text Miner program can scour through written or typed documents to extract key information about their content.

"It looks for patterns within text in the same way that data mining looks for patterns in numbers," said Peter Dorrington, a SAS Institute spokesman.

Data mining is used by many organisations to scour through sales data looking for trends that can help organisations spot fraud, tune their supply chains or predict what customers want.

Witness statements

Text Miner works by comparing a sample document against a database of text examples that contain all shades of the truth.

Mr Dorrington said the software could spot cases when a lie was clearly being told, but more often would leave humans to weigh up whether someone was lying or just not expressing themselves very clearly.

"It uses a statistical technique so what you get back is a probability score," said Mr Dorrington. "You get the most suspicious cases or a top match."

He said the software was likely to be used by companies that received lots of e-mail or letters and wanted a quick way to rank them in importance, ensure they were routed to the right department or to work out what exactly they were talking about.

It could also find a use with police forces conducting major investigations who had to sift through conflicting witness statements and needed to determine an exact sequence of events, said Mr Dorrington.

See also:

02 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Spotting the face of deception
06 Jan 02 | UK
A brief history of lying
01 Nov 01 | UK
What gives a liar away?
16 Mar 01 | UK
MI5 ponders lie-detectors
15 Jan 00 | Business
CV liars face computer checks
19 Nov 99 | UK
I don't believe it!
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