In a recent article, “In The Internet of Things YOU Will Be The Key,” I outlined the many ways that the human body will become the next generation identification system. The move to give everyone a global unique ID that can be verified across nearly all human activity has been in the works for some time, with defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin becoming a global leader in biometric identification. The applications are pervasive.
The fear of identity theft and cyber-banking crime has been the latest sales pitch to encourage accepting identity tech such as facial recognition, iris scans, and fingerprinting – even tears – as well as their attendant databases. There is an ongoing cooperative effort between global banks and corporations to ensure that there will be standardized, centralized entry into the consumer/Internet/banking matrix of the future.
Now it is being revealed that voiceprint is already being used as a key identifier and is becoming a big business for data brokers, as well as being employed by major corporations and governments.
Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.
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 65 million 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.
“There’s a misconception that the technology we have today is only in the domain of the intelligence services, or the domain of ‘Star Trek,'” said Paul Burmester, of London-based ValidSoft, a voice biometric vendor. “The technology is here today, well-proven and commonly available.” (emphasis added)
And business is booming – industry revenues are expected to double in the coming year to nearly $1 billion annually. Other major companies and governments cited as users – or soon to be users – of this technology include:
Wells Fargo: Over 70 million customers.
Barclays: 12 million retail customers.
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Canada’s TD Bank Group: 22 million customers worldwide.
The National Australia Bank Ltd. and The Bank of New Zealand: part of a conglomerate which has 12 million customers total.
Vanguard Mutual Fund: tens of thousands of customers speak the phrase “my voice is my password.”
Mobile phone company Turkcell: 10 million Turkish customers are identified by their voice.
South Africa: 7 million people are identified by voice in order to prove the validity of Social Security payments.
But it won’t be restricted to straight finance; your voice could become a key for nearly everything, including travel:
An Israeli company, FST21, is using voice biometrics to secure everything from apartment complexes to airports. Voice recognition in conjunction with other biometric techniques now screens those who show up at the door of New York City’s Knickerbocker Village. Executive Shahar Belkin said the technology also is being tested for access to secure areas of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.
And, naturally, United States law enforcement is using the technology – at this point it’s only been documented to be in use for tracking offenders and parolees. But given the track record of domestic spying in the United Sates, are we so naive to think that it’s truly restricted only to the guilty?
This technology offers up widespread concern, as even supposedly anonymous online or telephone communications would seem vulnerable.
- Had a conversation lately about how you didn’t pay your fair share of taxes? Might prompt an audit.
- Are you receiving disability payments, but mentioned a restricted physical activity over the phone? Those payments might cease.
- Making calls to organize a protest, thinking it’s safer than sending e-mails or using social media? Might be added to a list of dangerous extremist groups.
- Discussing your high fever and flu-like systems during a health emergency? Might prompt a visit and eventual quarantine under medical martial law.
The list of potential abuse is endless.
Then, when we add some of the speaker systems that are available to be deployed in public spaces, as well as new spy tech that can recover voice imprints from physical objects, it’s not only the topic of conversation that could be tracked, but right down to specific individuals.
For those who believe that simply disconnecting from the Internet or from modern gadgetry is a solution, this should be a wake-up call that the surveillance-industrial complex knows no bounds.
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