The Affair Algorithm

The Affair Algorithm

He says–

“You make me feel so alive.  Hard day today.  I need some of your distraction tonight.  The Blue Fin?” vs.  “Hi, honey, I’ll be home at 7.  Hard day.  I wanna relax with the game”

“You have the hottest body” vs.  “Your back is killing you?  Do you want to go out to eat with the kids?”

“I arranged for ‘treasure island’ for Thursday”  vs.  “I arranged for our foursome to be in the tournament on Thursday”

“Wear that blue bikini, kitten.  We’re going places tonight”  vs.  “Oh, new yoga wear?  Sounds like a good deal”

She says–

“Let’s move tonight on that deal we’ve been working on”  vs.  “Sheila is never going to close that deal”

“You’ve got the hardest body.  I want it all”  vs.  “I don’t think everyone’s going to get all they want”

“I can’t wait until tonight at hilt’s.  We’re smoking”  vs.  “The Hilton at 8.  That’s when Connie and Rick can meet us.  OK?”

These texts show up on the monitor of an employee’s calls and emails at work.  Are any of them red flags that the employer should look further for scandals that could affect the company?  Yes, some of them are.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal [12/6/13] banks and other large employers are watching out for illegal or scandalous activity by employees.  Some of this dangerous stuff can be revealed in what they say on the phone or write in emails or texts.

As reported, there are some firms offering software using complex algorithms which will search employees’ electronic and voice communications for signs of a brewing scandal, including an employee who is having an affair.  These algorithms are written to detect the difference between the content of the first and the second of the two pairs above.  I have composed these as examples of two different scenarios, one of which is nothing for the employer to be concerned about and the other of which could be the sign of an affair.

Why would a company or organization care if an employee is having an affair?  Because it can bring the wrong kind of attention, negatively affecting the company’s reputation, legal liability, morale in the workforce, the ability of employees to get the day’s work done without distraction; and the possibility of blackmail.

In each pair above the first communication could be a sign that the employee is having an affair.  In contrast the second communication would simply be an exchange between this man and his wife, or a wife and her husband, or with a colleague or a friend.

The algorithm writer must know how to write the detection program but to do this he also must know what men and women say and do when they’re having an affair.

Here are some alerts that a man or a woman may be communicating with an affair partner:

–References to feelings, body parts, or unusual locations

–References to sexual feelings or states

–References to articles of clothing

–Phrases that don’t make sense

–Phrases that don’t seem to relate to the rest of the message

–Use of abbreviations, odd names for places, obscure phrases or pet words for parts of the body.

Some of this language is to tease the other one, to get the affair partner hot through the text of the message.  And some of this language is an attempt to cover up the affair by using language that they think no one else will understand.  It may be a strange abbreviation,  a pet word that they only use with each other, or a phrase that with a basic reading seems to refer to something completely different such as “The flight to Miami is leaving”.

Sometimes one or both of the affair partners gets over-confident and thinks they’ve covered up the affair with the use of odd language.  But a good algorithm and a human looking further at what seems suspicious can detect things even if the players think no one will ever discover what’s happening.

Maybe the next cover-up is someone who will try to fool the algorithm by setting up a coded language which intentionally uses very ordinary phrases, phrase that are exactly the same as one would use with a family member or with a work colleague.

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