Slate on software, already being sold to governments and corporations, making it possible to store and identify the unique sound of everyone’s speech. The obvious question is, can it be thwarted by pitch shifting or other modification?
Intercepting thousands of phone calls is easy for government agencies. But quickly analyzing the calls and identifying the callers can prove a difficult task. Now one company believes it has solved the problem—with a countrywide biometric database designed to store millions of people’s “voice-prints.”
Russia’s Speech Technology Center, which operates under the name SpeechPro in the United States, has invented what it calls “VoiceGrid Nation,” a system that uses advanced algorithms to match identities to voices. The idea is that it enables authorities to build up a huge database containing up to several million voices—of known criminals, persons of interest, or people on a watch list.
Alexey Khitrov, SpeechPro’s president, told me the company is working with a number of agencies in the United States at a state and federal level. Khitrov [also] divulge[d] that various versions of the company’s biometric technology are used in more than 70 countries and that the Americas, Europe, and Asia are its key markets.
The advance of a mass, countrywide voice recognition system raises some obvious concerns. Russian secret services watchdog Agentura.ru reported earlier this year that Speech Technology Center’s products have been sold to countries including Kazakhstan, Belarus, Thailand, and Uzbekistan—hardly bastions of human rights and democracy. What if the VoiceGrid Nation system were in the hands of an authoritarian government? It has the technical capacity, for example, to store a voice-print of every single citizen in a country the size of Bahrain—with a population of 1.3 million.