• Voiceprints: Time to be Afraid Again

    November 18, 2014

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Post-Constitution America


    The end of privacy in the United States was brought about as much by technology as intention. Those who claim there is little new here — the government read the mail of and wiretapped the calls and conversations of Americans under COINTELPRO from 1956 to at least 1971, for example – do not fully understand the impact of technology.

    Size Matters

    The spying and compiling of information on innocent Americans by J. Edgar Hoover’s low-tech FBI is well-known; files, recordings and photos secretly obtained exposed the lives of civil rights leaders, popular musicians and antiwar protesters. You will likely think of additional examples, or they’ll be in the next batch of Snowden documents.

    Technology now being employed by the NSA and others inside the U.S. has never before existed, in scale, scope or sheer efficiency. Size matters. We are the first people in history to deal with this kind of threat to privacy. Avoiding even the majority of encroaching digitalization essentially means withdrawing from society.


    The financial services company where I maintain my meager investments recently added a new feature. When I access my account via smartphone, instead of typing in a password that can be guessed, or stolen, I have the option of creating a voiceprint ID. I speak a specific phrase, which is broken down digitally and stored by the company. When I want to access my account, I simply repeat the phrase, as the parameters of one’s voice are as unique as a fingerprint. The company compares my speech to the stored example and if they match, I’m in.

    “We’ve done a lot of testing, and looked at siblings, even twins,” said one voiceprint analyst. “Even people with colds, we looked at that.” The results are clear: Your voice is another biometric, the same as DNA, finger and hand prints, iris patterns, facial recognition and the like. Voiceprinting is the technology employed when the media reports that the CIA has “authenticated” the latest pronouncement from the latest celebrity terrorist.

    But unlike those metrics, which require some level of contact, presence or connection between you and the collector of the data, voices can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world, fully without your knowledge. Make a phone call, have a conversation with someone, use Skype or shout out the window and you can be collected. Your identity can be stored and compared to other instances when you make a phone call, have a conversation with someone, use Skype or shout out the window.

    It doesn’t matter at that point whether you use a stranger’s throw-away burner phone purchased with cash from a street corner in Istanbul to leave an anonymous tip on a fraud hotline. Or blowing the whistle on government malfeasance to a journalist. Compares the speech to the stored example and if they match, you’re in. Or maybe out.

    Here, Now

    The use of voiceprint technology is in regular use worldwide. The Associated Press reports the single largest known implementation is in Turkey, where a cell phone service provider has collected voiceprint data from 10 million customers. Never far behind on these matters, U.S. law enforcement officials use the technology to monitor inmates calling from inside prisons and to track offenders on the outside who have been paroled. In New Zealand, the Internal Revenue Department claims one million voiceprints on file, what its revenue minister says is “the highest level of voice biometric enrollments per capita in the world.” In South Africa, seven million voiceprints have been collected by the country’s Social Security Agency, in part to verify that those claiming pensions are still alive. Worldwide it is estimated that some 65 million voiceprints are on file in corporate hands.

    One can speculate further. In the United States, where the NSA boasts of “collecting it all,” it seems unlikely that “all” does not include voiceprints. Allow your inner conspiracy theorist a little room, and circuitry designed to collect and pass on voiceprints might be surreptitiously built into nearly every audio device out there, from Bluetooth to Mr. Microphone.

    Off the Shelf

    The technology of voiceprints is available off the shelf. You likely know one provider already, Nuance Communications. Among other things, they make the popular Dragon Speaking software that allows home computer users to convert the spoken words into text in a document.

    The company is quite proud of its voiceprint technology; have a look at their web page. And hey, small world — Nuance also sells its own line of microphones and Bluetooth headsets.

    There are many more companies selling voiceprint technology over-the-counter; here’s just one other as an example.

    The New World Order

    What can be accessed can be collected. What can be collected can be stored. What can be stored can be leaked, hacked, shared and used. What can be used, well, can be used. Now, next Sunday, be a nice son or daughter and call your mom to say hello. Just be sure to speak slowly and clearly.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Technology is not a substitute for intelligence. The “intelligence” agencies are already drowning in a firehose of useless data.

      11/18/14 2:40 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Please amend to read “The “intelligence” agencies are TEMPORARILY drowning in a firehose of useless data.”

      We’ll talk in a future post about developing AI and other automated analyst tools that replace the dull civil servants with efficient machines to troll through the mountain of data.

      11/18/14 2:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Now, next Sunday, be a nice son or daughter and call your mom to say hello. Just be sure to speak slowly and clearly so anyone listening can hear you say…”Fuck you all.”

      The voters have spoken:

      Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont argued Monday that the low voter turnout in the midterm elections reflected widespread negative opinions about both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

      “What I think really happened is about 64 percent of the American people rejected the two-party system,” Sanders said on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”

      “They rejected Washington as it now functioned. They rejected a political system and a Congress which spends more time representing the wealthy and the powerful than ordinary Americans.”

      11/18/14 2:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      AS the CIA WMD lies put the lie to The Agency “speaking truth to power,” the only certainty is whatever you say the intelligence will be corrupted unintelligently.

      11/18/14 2:51 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      I can hear Senator Church right now…

      “You fucking morons..I warned you. But noooooooooooou. You had to trust the very creeps that were up to no good when I discovered them in 1978. Well, how do you feel now that you’ve hit the bottom of the abyss, hmmmmm? Well too bad. The Dumbest Fucking Country on the Planet has now become Totalitarinism-R-Us, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. All I can say is I TOLD YOU SO you stupid fucks. The only question left..is what are you gonna tell your grandchildren..hmmmmmm? I bet I know. You’ll pass off that old bullshit axiom..’if you got nothing to hide…’…right? Right. Well good luck you fucking morons. It’s your world now. You had your chance..and you blew it. Adios motherfuckers.”

      11/18/14 6:10 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      ps..I wonder if Leahy’s bullshit Freedumb Act passed yet. If so.. they will have finally codified the final nail in the 4th Amendment’s coffin. Good bye America.

      11/18/14 6:17 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Well I’ll be damned. Your article is listed on the main page of Google news. Good for you Peter. Not that America gives a damn. As far as the DFCOTP is concerned, pass the popcorn.. Honeybooboo is coming on. Pathetic. But they’ll wake up soon nuff. only to find out..it’s already too late.

      11/18/14 6:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Helen Marshall said...


      For Bloody Pitchfork – what will we tell our grandchildren? Probably not much, as they’ll be too busy trying to move millions of people out of the way of the rising seas to talk.


      11/18/14 7:53 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      well sooprise sooprise..

      Leahy’s bill didn’t pass. While good for the IC, it’s also good that they didn’t enshrine the abolition of the 4thA in a statute. At least there’s room for another fight..another day. Meanwhile, yeah..Voiceprints. right. The Founders would be pouring lead.

      11/19/14 1:24 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      Our collective response to Club FED and posterity ought be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rVuoeLtOJI

      11/19/14 9:36 PM | Comment Link

    • Sprachmuster-Erkennung: Zeit sich wieder einmal zu fürchten « lupo cattivo – gegen die Weltherrschaft said...


      […] Original-Artikel bei We Meant Well: “Voiceprints: Time to be Afraid Again” – Übersetzt vom Nachtwächter, mein Dank sagt Maria Lourdes! […]

      11/25/14 11:02 PM | Comment Link

    • Sprachmuster-Erkennung: Zeit sich wieder einmal zu fürchten | volksbetrug.net said...


      […] Original-Artikel bei We Meant Well: “Voiceprints: Time to be Afraid Again” – Übersetzt vom Nachtwächter, mein Dank sagt Maria Lourdes! […]

      11/26/14 11:19 AM | Comment Link

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