Don't Make a Sound in the Surveillance State -- The race to fingerprint the human voice.

posted Feb 24, 2013, 5:10 AM by Peter Joseph Moons   [ updated Feb 27, 2013, 4:38 PM ]

Comments by Peter Joseph Moons

Voice Print

The proliferation of voice identification technology will be a game-changer in the surveillance community.  Once voices can be recorded, cataloged, and retrieved in real-time, another wall in terms of a citizenry's desire for anonymity will fall.  There will be vast repercussions for governments, business, and citizens.

For governments, linking voice recognition with other surveillance means, such as facial recognition technology, will allow for easy and timely verification of persons -- for access to government facilities, for transiting security checkpoints such as at airports, and for tracking persons of interests.  Imagine if the technology becomes so good that a single voice could be weeded out from a crowd of 50,000 attending a political rally or a crowd of 100,000 at a sports stadium or in a stream of cars and buses passing under a bridge during a morning commute.  Hours of labor could be saved in searching for a 'missing person' or tracking a 'terrorist,' for example.

Businesses could also combine voice recognition technology with programmed advertising.  In one scenario, the moment a consumer enters a store, is welcomed by a 'greeter' and responds with 'hello' may be the point when the technology identifies the person.  Then, the shop's database searches items the consumer has previously purchased and offers advertisements to them when the walk past video screens -- all this just after returning a salutation to the 'greeter' at the store's entrance.

Citizens will have to continually be aware that they lose their expectation of privacy when their leave their private domain(s). Upon entering a street, a public conveyance, a public building, or even a commercial enterprise, their voice, like their face, is subject to surveillance.  And a voice can be recorded at any time: imagine calling the Department of Motor Vehicles and hearing the message 'this call will be recorded;' your voice could then be recorded and filed in multiple databases for ready retrieval by other agencies of your local or federal government or other countries' governments.  Your only consent will be using the government's services, like the DMV, or not.  Essentially, since everyone uses some government service or commercial enterprise that requires them to verbalize information, recording voiceprints will become easy, inexpensive, and ubiquitous -- and will occur without your explicit consent.

Current Control Grade: 9 (when implemented). Freedom Grade: 1 (The only recourse will be to not use one's own voice).