Speak up: US law enforcement to use Russian software to store millions of voices
The US government has already proven its intent to see all evil, with the use of Orwellian programs like TrapWire. But it can now hear all evil too, as law enforcement agencies implement a tool able to store, analyze and identify voices in seconds. ‘Voice Grid Nation’ is a system that uses advanced algorithms to match identities to voices. Brought to the US by Russia’s Speech Technology Center, it claims to be capable of allowing police, federal agencies and other law enforcement personnel to build up a huge database containing up to several million voices. When authorities intercept a call they’ve deemed ‘hinky’, the recording is entered into the VoiceGrid program, which (probably) buzzes and whirrs and spits out a match. In five seconds, the program can scan through 10,000 voices, and it only needs 3 seconds for speech analysis. All that, combined with 100 simultaneous searches and the storage capacity of 2 million samples, gives SpeechPro, as the company is known in the US, the right to claim a 90% success rate. According to Slate.com’s Ryan Gallagher, who spoke with SpeechPro president Aleksey Khitrov, the software is already being used in many different countries and for ‘noble causes’ only – like in Mexico, where Voice Grid helped identify and apprehend kidnappers during a ransom call, thus saving their victim’s life. Both the FBI and the NSA have expressed interest in the program, which is also expected to be used at 911 call centers and police precincts. And sample lists would, of course, contain ‘persons of interest’ – known criminals, terror suspects or people on a watch list. Or would it? The definition of ‘suspect’ has been known to be loosely interpreted by US law enforcement agencies in the past. What with the FBI branding people as ‘terrorist suspects’ for buying waterproof matches or flashlights, and the Department of Homeland Security urging hotel staff to notify authorities immediately if a person has tried to use cash and/or hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door, it’s easy to see why many are spooked by the idea that not only can the government see you at all times, it can also hear you.