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Someday in the future, when you’re moving through airport security, you may be required to speak to the GK-1 machine before being allowed to pass. As you don a headset, the machine will ask you questions about your criminal intentions, and wait for you to utter your responses into a microphone. Software inside the machine will record your responses, scrutinize them for tell-tale signs of dishonesty, and flag you for further probing if thinks you’re a liar.

The GK-1 was developed by Nemesysco, a security outfit in Israel. It uses software to listen for involuntary tremors which arise in the voice of a liar, or so its makers claim. If you have too many tremors in your voice when the machine asks you whether you’re a drug smuggler, a terrorist, or some other type of disagreeable person, you’ll be “taken aside.”

From the product page:

Recent terror attacks have shown that the rules of game have changed, and that terrorists willingness to lose their own lives has made deterrence and prevention significantly more complicated. The search for concealed weapons, explosives and sharp objects is no longer sufficient. We are now compelled to examine not only what the subjects are carrying, but to discover their motivations in advance.

Nemesysco’s Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) technology now allows us to do just that.

By having your subjects answer three to five yes-no questions, it is now possible to reveal their real intentions.

The manufacturer describes it as an “efficient, non-intrusive and user-friendly technique for threat identification.” Each question session with GK-1 lasts between 30-90 seconds, and according to Nemesysco’s CEO Amir Liberman, the false-positive rate is about 12%. Each unit is expected to cost between $10,000-$30,000.

GK-1 is intended for use in airport check-in areas, airplane boarding desks, customs checkpoints, border crossings, security stations, and drug smuggling investigations to name a few. As the manufacturer describes it, the unit sounds like something that might improve the effectiveness of security in some places, but there’s always a tradeoff in personal freedom. The thought of being confronted with such questions from a machine feels very Orwellian, particularly if every person is subjected to the test. Just because an individual is nervous or has something to hide, it does not mean they are breaking the law.

And much like a polygraph machine, a person who knows how these devices work can almost certainly defeat one using simple countermeasures. Perhaps the most obvious countermeasure is to pretend to be completely deaf… it would clearly be discriminatory to flag every deaf person for a search, yet a deaf person cannot take a test which is administered with sound. Aside from that, simply knowing that the machine measures anxiety may be enough to defeat it.

Incidentally, Amir Liberman is also the inventor of the lie-detecting telephone.

Further reading:
Manufacturer’s Product Page on the GK-1
Reuters Article on the GK-1