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Millions of Voiceprints Quietly Being Harvested 86

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The Guardian: Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords. "We sometimes call it the invisible biometric," said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field. Those companies have helped enter more than 65M voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. ... The single largest implementation identified by the AP is in Turkey, where the mobile phone company Turkcell has taken the voice biometric data of some 10 million customers using technology provided by market leader Nuance Communications Inc. But government agencies are catching up.
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Millions of Voiceprints Quietly Being Harvested

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  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @12:14AM (#48147029)

    I can see a rapid increase in the customer base of synthetic voice software

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @12:21AM (#48147057)
    with 80s hairstyles? If yes, here's mine: My - voice - is - my - passport.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @12:25AM (#48147067)

    Donald Duck gets customer service satisfaction and no BS.

  • US Customs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @12:26AM (#48147075)

    I recently returned home from an international trip. I don't travel outside the country very often, and this was my first encounter with the new kiosks that replace the old paper form asking where I went, why I went there, and what I brought home with me.

    I was also fairly sure that the reason the Customs agent asked me to look directly at him and state my full name was that he was collecting a voice sample for future use. I think this article confirms that either this is already happening, or will very soon.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      I think this article confirms that either this is already happening, or will very soon.

      Well, speaker recognition dates as far back as facial recognition does.

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        http://www.signalprocessingsoc... [signalproc...ociety.org]

      • Re:US Customs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @01:15AM (#48147213) Homepage Journal
        re "Well, speaker recognition dates as far back as facial recognition does."
        It was big in the 1980's to find interesting people using different phones and very early cell phones in South America by the US mil/gov.
        The UK enjoyed using it "Spy-in-sky patrols over British cities in hunt for Taliban fighters" (3 August 2008)
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]
        "They are attempting to identify suspects using ‘voice prints’" ... "Traffic’ intercepted by the equipment on board is analysed and processed, probably at the GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham, searching for voice matches"
        The only real change is the cost of collection, cost of sorting and ability to build on public, telco, private and mil databases been shared with the Five Eye nations and friends.
        Expect every arrival chatdown to be recored and indexed with your face, passport and the usual biometrics details.
        Expect every car rental, duty free, cafe airport chatdown to be recored and indexed with your face, passport and the usual biometrics details.
        Get you talking, keep you talking, its not just about the car rental use or been friendly to the wider travelling public ;)
        Domestically the telco and trusted brands Interactive voice response (IVR) will record the rest of the wider populations over years.
        That 1 or 5 min chat with Bob or Sally in telco support is not just kept for training purposes or quality control :)
        Your billing details have been matched with something globally unique.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Considering the ton of youtube videos with your voice in them that your husband and kids uploaded while you were on that trip, the short recording at the airport isn't a big deal.
  • Over the phone? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @12:45AM (#48147123) Journal

    The Vanguard Group Inc, a Pennsylvania-based mutual fund manager, is among the technologyâ(TM)s many financial users. Tens of thousands of customers log in to their accounts by speaking the phrase: âoeAt Vanguard, my voice is my passwordâ into the phone.

    The problem with biometrics is that you can't ever replace them if they are stolen.

    So naturally they want to use a password that you have to announce publicly. :facepalm:

    • If they can be stolen, they are a bit shit as a security token.

      And yes, that makes passwords a bit shit as well.

    • I totally wanted to say this. THIS THIS THIS!

      British banks are distributing retinal scanners. If my mastercard or bank debit card are hacked, I can get a new one. If someone steals my retinal data, I'm pooched in a permanent way. Ditto voiceprints.

      Biometric data is never going to be fully secure and thus it borders on pointless as an access control. To use it when its theft would be devastating is a clear sign of insanity.

      I'll drop my accounts with any agency or entity that wants to use biometric data as th
  • My voice is my passport. Verify me.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been thinking a lot recently about cortina, Siri and google now. I'm wondering if they've considered using voice searches as the ultimate undeletable cookie.

    I've voice searched on my android tablet and shown my elderly parents how to do it on their own tablets and phones to see if they would take to it. But when the iOS google app started pushing me to voice search I said naw to google now. I'm not signed in on iOS. I naively hope that my phone searches are those of a middle aged mature adult while my

    • I'm also thinking Facebook might be interested in this for general advertising tracking like the above. They do offer voice calls now. If these companies all share voiceprints it would largely be game over from being tracked.

      Except if you're not dumb enough to use any of this stupid garbage, which is useless in the first place.

      • I'm also thinking Facebook might be interested in this for general advertising tracking like the above. They do offer voice calls now. If these companies all share voiceprints it would largely be game over from being tracked.

        Except if you're not dumb enough to use any of this stupid garbage, which is useless in the first place.

        You should see the looks I get when I tell people I specifically do not have a Facebook account. It's like I'm telling them I don't use a telephone.

        • It's bad enough to have a \. account, let alone a FB account...

          If you aren't paying for it, you are the product. Lately, if you are paying for it, you're still the product.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    More like harvested at normal speaking volume

  • This makes me want to play Uplink again. Good old days of dialing sysadmins' home phones to scrape their voice, then using recordings to authenticate so you can hack the Gibson.

  • by duck_rifted ( 3480715 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @03:23AM (#48147521)
    My voice sounds different on every single device I've ever heard it played back from. That's in addition to it sounding different based on the time of day; bass in the morning, flat at night. On top of that, it sounds different based on my mood and health. So, this has a high potential for false positives and false negatives.

    Then there's the matter of reproducing voiceprints. People have done that for decades for practical jokes, comedy routines, and more. It's not only possible; it has been done already and can readily be done by anybody who puts a little effort into learning how.

    Finally, there's the matter of fraud. Combine the two above observations, and your bank can forge your "voice signature" and then play back audio if you can even afford to take them to court. Viola, the banks literally own absolutely everything and nobody has property rights.

    Brilliant.

    Using tech like this to improve voice recognition and speech synthesis is useful. Using it to verify identities is problematic and should be banned before it causes any serious problems, destroys lives and livelihoods, and wastes resources and time. This is quite possibly the worst, most easily abused application of technology I've ever heard of any government or institution being idiotic or corrupt enough to try.
    • Using tech like this to improve voice recognition and speech synthesis is useful. Using it to verify identities is problematic and should be banned before it causes any serious problems, destroys lives and livelihoods, and wastes resources and time. This is quite possibly the worst, most easily abused application of technology I've ever heard of any government or institution being idiotic or corrupt enough to try.

      Because signatures are such unique and uncopyable things...

      • A signature is pretty dumb too.

        Voiceprints, retina prints, DNA scans, fingerprint scans, hand geometry scans, capillary scans, etc. all have one thing in common: They generate some sort of electronic record. That record can then be stolen and misused.

        Unlike a password for my bank or a credit card number, it isn't easily possible to reissue these sorts of biometrics (although some sort of Monty Pythonesque 'Biometric Update Service' showing up at your door with bone saws and graft on parts a la Fankenstein i
      • Signatures require a physical presence at some point, thus attaching human witnesses, a fax number, or an address. All of that is missing with voice imprints.
    • About 20 years ago, Nuance did a demo where they played a recording of Margaret Thatcher, which the system identified as being her. They then asked an impersonator to do the same thing, but the system could tell they weren't Mrs T.

      I'm sure these sorts of demos are part truth and part smoke-and-mirrors, but the point being that it was a long time ago and something they claimed to be able to do. You can bet they've got it sorted now so that it's considerably more accurate. I have no idea if they have a means

      • I have no idea if they have a means to stop a recording being played back though - that's presumably a harder problem to solve.

        "For verification, please say the following words out loud: Propeller. Spinach. Fiberglass. Indonesia."

        The system chooses randomly from a list of thousands of words that are easy for an individual to repeat back, but highly unlikely to be recorded and readily accessible to someone using a set of recordings to fool the system.

        • There's another problem I didn't mention. Actually, two.

          The first issue is one of trust. The big banks have in the past foreclosed on homes they did not own a mortgage for, to include homes that did not have a mortgage at all. That's only one example of misconduct by banks. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to trust that banks would not abuse this to commit forgery. If they intend it to replace other systems, then that is exactly what they will end up doing. Do we really need to debate wheth
  • by Skylinux ( 942824 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @03:38AM (#48147557) Homepage

    What happens when someone steals the db. Will they now have the data required to emulate the owner's voice against other sound based authentication methods?

    • No. The 'print' is something akin to a hash - you can't use it to make a voice synthesiser. I'll leave it to the researchers to figure out if you could construct a synthesiser that created the same 'print', if you knew what the 'print' was to start with - I suspect that'd be possible, but non-trivial (and wouldn't sound anything like the original voice - the original may have said the words "my voice is my password" in a well chiselled English accent, but the synthesiser would only need to say "sfhjie" in a

  • "There is nothing more useless than a lock with a voice print."

  • by shitzu ( 931108 )

    How does one harvest a "voice" "quietly"?

  • Notice the MIC is World wide, and look at the nomenclature that is used "harvested", "consumer", "data point" etc.

  • ... the same people who have yet to get that goddam Dragon Naturally Speaking software tweaked to where it's useful.

    Every few years, management makes me order it and when I tell them they have to train it, they want ME to train it and then hand it back to them.

    Then management bitches because the fucking thing is useless as tits on a boar hog.

    In a chat room, I said, "I don't have a Texas accent."

    It came out, "I don't have a Texas accident."

    Needs work.

    • It came out, "I don't have a Texas accident."

      But was it wrong? I don't have one either. I always make sure to plan my reststops carefully.

    • Every few years, management makes me order it and when I tell them they have to train it, they want ME to train it and then hand it back to them.

      LOL, so do it!!

      Lock yourself in the server room, and spend the next few days reading gibberish into the microphone while doing an impersonation of your boss. Claim some overtime for it.

      Occasionally run up to them with a voice recorder and say "quick, I need you to say this so I can train the speech stuff". Gather enough snippets to be able to stitch together conv

      • So you're saying Dilbertize it ... ;p

        • LOL ... no, I'm saying BOFH-ize it; pay attention. :-P

          Dilbert is quietly optimistic in the face of crushing evidence to the contrary and in defiance of common sense.

          BOFH is actively malicious in the knowledge that being optimistic is for suckers who don't create their own fate. ;-)

          One leads to soul crushing disappointment. The other can be quite lucrative.

    • by judoguy ( 534886 )
      There are private companies that have this down pat. A friend of mine is a sysadmin for a company that "records the call for quality assurance" for clients ranging from banks to the DOD. Many, many terabytes of data acquired yearly. They accurately transcribe all calls to get CC info, health data, etc. They also analyse the calls for stress, etc. to judge the call center performance.

      It's pretty un-nerving what they can do and this is just one company with home grown, or at least home modified software. I ha

  • Hi, my name is Werner Brandes. My voice is my passport. Verify Me.

  • Now I have to use a voice scrambler for all my phone calls.

  • As always, be afraid of government....especially government by the Board Members!
  • My voice is my, Passport? Verify, me.

The computing field is always in need of new cliches. -- Alan Perlis

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