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Software says: ‘You’re lying’

HR might want to check out Russian bank’s new ATM with a built-in lie detector

By Todd Humber

How’s this for a vision of the job fair of the future: Your company sets up a kiosk. Candidates walk up to it, input their resumé, and then are asked a series of questions by the machine. It could be questions on their education, credentials or whether or not they have a criminal record.

Built-in software would automatically detect if the candidates are lying, producing a clean list of top contenders for the position.

Sound far-fetched? Something very similar is happening right now in Russia. According to an article over the weekend in the New York Times, Sberbank — Russia’s biggest retail bank — is testing an ATM with a built-in lie detector intended to prevent consumer credit fraud.

Here’s how it works, according to the Times article: The machine scans a passport, records fingerprints and takes a three-dimensional scan for facial recognition. And it uses voice-analysis software to help assess whether the person is truthfully answering questions that include “Are you employed?” and “At this moment, do you have any other outstanding loans?”

The company behind the software, Speech Technology Centre, developed it by analyzing recordings from Russian law enforcement interrogations of people known to be lying. (And this firm has serious street cred — they count the Federal Security Service, the Russian domestic intelligence agency descended from the Soviet KGB, on their list of clients.)

It can pick up on nervousness and emotional distress. That information, combined with the person’s credit history and other data, would help the bank automatically make a decision about whether or not to approve a credit application without any human intervention.

If it works properly, there is tremendous potential upside for companies looking to recruit workers. It would eliminate bias — the software doesn’t care about race, religion or disability — with the possible exception of speech impediments. It could identify the best candidates, based on desired skills, experience and education, and weed out ones who are faking credentials.  

It all sounds a little futuristic, and perhaps a bit Orwellian, but if it works there’s no doubt my long-anticipated jetpack won’t be too far behind.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at 

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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