Prediction: No one will ever use my practical calibration of whether the test is worth a damn or not, until lie-detector technology is actually worth a damn.
So now you have two problems: Detecting whether a subject believes a particular topic is "meaningful", and then detecting whether they are lying about it.
Another possibility is that you are a lying fed stirring the pot. For instance, a fed could point to your comment as evidence that antipolygraph.org is inciting people to break the law, which is a gambit they have used before.
All I'm saying is... if you are about to take a polygraph, or think you will in the near future: it is in your best interest to read this guide. On another note, after you read the guide and possibly benefit from it...you might find your attitude towards them changed. If the polygraph remains the de facto "lie detector", then we can all rest easy: because they are trivial to pass.
This is why a (good) defense attorney advises you against taking a polygraph if one is offered during a trial. If you pass, the case is not magically dismissed: it's useless. If you fail, you aren't automatically convicted, but the jury has their view of you negatively influenced by your failure of the test. You have nothing to gain by taking and passing one in court, but you have an undefined jury sentiment to lose should you fail.
For example, the control question I got in at least 7 examinations was the same: "Have you ever stolen anything in your life?"
When I heard the question, I did three things at once:
1) Mentally tried to divide 1717 by 3, over and over, knowing that I would not solve it and allowing that to make me anxious.
2) Increase my rate of breathing(pretend you are inflating party balloons).
3) Tense my entire body, by imagining fire ants crawling up my legs, about to reach my groin.
A few seconds later(don't wait to long), I answered "no". The examiner pauses, and asks if I have told him the truth. I confess to petty crimes such as stealing candy from my sister as a young child, and further confess I knew it at the time I answered, but was ashamed to tell him.
There will be several more control questions, and some of them(obvious ones) will be of that type(an expected lie, but not relevant to the topic of the examination). When you give the expected lies, you want to raise the baseline. When you give expected truths(such as "Are the lights on in this room?"), you want to answer normally. The end goal, is that any response your body has to a real conceived lie, should be lower than what you exhibited during the control questions for expected lies.
It's always fun to think about how I could be totally wrong tho. Thought experiment:
Suppose you had a piece of technology which could infallibly detect whether someone thinks they are telling the truth.
To preserve the device's maximum efficacy, would you (a) keep it a secret and only use it for ultra-high-stakes investigations (as with cell-site simulators - e.g. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/04/fbi-would-rather... ); or (b) promulgate the idea that it is worthless or can be trivially manipulated to return any result, and train people to use it for everything?
Hard for me to distinguish between a world where the polygraph does nothing and everyone knows it; and a world where the polygraph does nothing and everyone knows it (but that's just what they want you to think)
Studies on memory show that human beings, as a whole, are terrible at remembering things. We edit, we re-write, we create. Almost certainly some event you remember clearly from more than 20 years ago either did not happen at all, happened to someone else and you heard about it, or happened in a completely different way than you remember. That's true for just about everyone.
What good is a device that can tell if you believe you're telling the truth when your beliefs and memories are so flaky anyways?
 Except my wife, whose near-eidetic memory is frightening.
I always remember testifying in court about an assault that took place some months earlier. By the time I was actually there, I couldn't remember the event at all. I simply remembered describing the event previously (a bunch of times).
Did I see what I said I did? I believe so. Was the testimony in court worth anything at all when compared to the Police interview 2 hours after the fact? God no.
At that point my truth was that I was confident that I didn't lie in previous testimony. That's it. As you say - what value is there in something which tests that?
And even if we agree that memory is faulty, no one agrees that their memory could be faulty. Just everyone else's.
My favourite example of this is my father. He tells a story about some funny event that happened to him up at his parent's cottage when he was in his 20s. Right after it happened, he told his family, including his brother. Within a few years, his brother started telling the story like it had happened to him- and in fact seemed to believe it did happen to him. My father tells me that and scoffs, saying "See how faulty memory is? Your uncle remembers an event that never happened to him!". I asked him "How do you know it's his memory that's wrong and not yours, since memory is so faulty?" "Oh now, I know that my memory is right".
And then there's the third person or some sort of record of the event that shows that both of them are full of shit and getting everything wrong.
For more on Doug Williams' case, see: https://antipolygraph.org/litigation.shtml#doug-williams
If it is not generally used anywhere outside of the USA then it is way too fragile to be allowed anywhere. The principles are easy to understand but also easy to falsify as many people have, no doubt, found out to their detriment.
I don't think EMNLP has posted talk videos yet but these slides look very similar: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~julia/talks/ICASSP2018-latest.pd...
Instead of asking for example "Did you rob the bank?" and interpret the response as "lying" or "not lying" they can be asked "Was the getaway car white?" "Was the getaway car red?" "Was the getaway car blue?". By asking several of these you can statistically prove the suspect is guilty if they responded differently to several detail questions about information only they knew. Tthis doesn't help prove innocence (because people can beat the machine) but it reduces false positives and can therefor prove guilt (because it's unlikely a nervous person would randomly be more nervous when the true details are being asked vs. the decoys).
Of course to be done right the operator must be "blind" (not know the answers and subconsciously tip the suspect off) and other statistical safe-guards need to be in place, so how useful in the real-world this is I don't know.
0 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative)
The purpose of the test is to put someone through a highly stressful situation and see how they react to questioning. It's about determining whether they've been coached, and how familiar they are with details of the case, not determining a definitive "yes/no" response to specific questions. Polygraph questions can be passed with 100% accuracy by someone with extensive training, so it's entirely about building a gut feeling in the person administering the test as to whether you are lying or not.
You could apply this logic to the gun control question too..
You can get some info here: http://noliemri.com/
That assumes that just because we have a distinct word for “lie” that that word has a clean direct correspondence with a detectable biological process.
I've long been under the impression that it was commonly understood that the polygraph was fallible. Has this changed?
As for the press, they only play along if it fits their narrative. During that hearing Fox News framed polygraphs as pseudoscience while CNN was promoting it as evidence. Both sides will just as easily do the opposite the next time depending on what their audience wants to hear.
Either way, it's inadmissible in court. It's a technique for aiding in interrogation (like torture would be, if it worked), not a forensic technique for producing evidence.
Torture is morally abhorrent, but it's not necessarily ineffective.
"I don't know."
But the polygraph can only have such utility so long as the general public believes that it can detect lies. We're at the point now that applicants for public jobs who face polygraph screening are often being specifically instructed not to research polygraphy.
Example in fiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgrO_rAaiq0
LDs don't catch spies. They catch novices. Aldrich Ames beat the test repeatedly. But he would, since his job was counterespionage.
The real problem is when this hocus pocus enters the legal system and people get convicted based on examiner testimony or face the presumed guilt applied to anyone who refuses a polygraph.
By doing that, they also perpetuate the idea that it does work somewhat reliably and to beat it, you need special training.
Same goes for cell service: a lot of people tend to believe that, while your phone just talks to a cell tower, the cell tower is talking to a satellite (rather than to wired backhaul or a microwave link.) A satellite is depicted in all those diagrams of "how cellular networking works", so I don't blame them for this at all!
I think most people, if you asked them to describe how weather affects a cell tower, would describe them as working in basically the same way that Iridium handsets do: "clouds in the sky, signal goes bye." I.e., the signal would be "choppy" on the interval of milliseconds, with packet retransmissions covering it up up to some tolerance level, but failing entirely and instantaneously if the weather was bad enough.
I imagine they would think this, even though they know intuitively that cell signals are more robust than that in practice. They don't know why they know that, and they've also been taught something that conflicts with that knowledge, so depending on which order their jumble of thoughts comes to mind, it might go either way.
(Also, something I'm curious about, as a tangent: now that atomic clocks are getting cheaper, are cell towers using them to add fault-tolerance to their precise timekeeping requirements, in the way that e.g. undersea-cable head-end switches do?)
To your observation: Amazon had a major outage due to hurricane related flooding and a lightning strike back in the mid 2000s.
When there's bad weather in a data center, you sometimes just have to wait it out and run your jobs another day.
I am also dismayed, but not surprised.
Keep in mind that it was being used here by Ford, not by the FBI or Congress. I think the people who mattered are well aware they don't really work, but is also aware of their potent PR value (thanks to years of bad Hollywood science and cliches police procedurals).
Especially since they are required for some government jobs.