Lies are a fact of life. But technology may soon make them obsolete.
“Almost everybody lies now and then,” said Tim Levine, chair of the Communications Studies Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Most people are pretty good at it, in that you can’t tell when they are lying just by watching and listening to them.”
But our digital, data-hoarding culture means more and more evidence piles up to undermine our lies. “The research shows the way lies are really uncovered is by comparing what someone is saying to the evidence — and with all these news analytics that can be done, it’s going to enable lie detection in a way that was previously impossible,” said Levine.
Peoples’ data is already being turned against them.
In Pennsylvania, police are prosecuting a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted earlier this year after data from her Fitbit didn’t match up with her story, according Lancaster Online. According to an arrest affidavit, data collected by the device showed the woman “was awake and walking around at the time she claimed she was sleeping,” the outlet reported. That, along with other evidence the police allege didn’t line up, led investigators to believe the woman knowingly filed a false report.
But the full scope of how our increasingly networked and documented lives can catch deceptions can be hard to fathom.
Social media is one obvious component: Your boss will likely ask questions if you say you’re home sick, but get tagged in pictures from what looks suspiciously like a weekend getaway, for instance. In fact, insurance investigators have long tried to dig up pictures from Facebook that seem to contradict workers’ compensation claims.
And just like you can Google a fact to end an argument, instant messaging programs that archive digital conversations make it easy to look back and see exactly who said what — and if it matches up with what a person is saying now.