Interpol develops massive international voice biometrics database
The program took four years and €10 million (US$11.7 million) to complete, and includes the ability to filter voices by gender, age, language and accent. Its accuracy rates can be extremely high when comparing samples from similar environments, according to The Intercept. Samples are drawn from “lawfully intercepted communications” submitted by agencies and from social media, according to an Interpol video explaining the project, and it could be used to identify terrorist or kidnapping suspects from phone calls.
The system is made up of end users, industry partners, including Airbus, Nuance, Singular Logic, IBG, and Data Fusion, Sail Labs, ok2go telecom, and Synthema, and research institutes, and is coordinated by Verint.
Interpol surveyed 91 law enforcement agencies in 69 countries, and found that more than half are already using voice recognition technology.
Interpol, which also operates fingerprint and facial biometric databases, has recognized in internal research the risk biometric surveillance systems run of discouraging certain behaviors.
“Processing of audio data that is never actually viewed does not count as intrusive in itself, though it can lead to future intrusion,” an Interpol research document on ethics and biometrics notes, as reported by The Intercept. “Particularly in an investigatory context where the aim is identifying suspects for future scrutiny. Even when no human viewing does take place, the application of these techniques has consequences resembling genuine intrusion: They can easily cause people to fear that their information will be exposed, creating a harmful incentive to avoid associational life or unconventional behavior.”
Big Brother Watch recently criticized the collection of more than 5 million voiceprints by the UK tax agency.