Governments and businesses harvest voices

Harvest_time_in_Romania,_1920Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are harvesting voiceprints for future biometric based security systems.

Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO said companies like his have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases.

The system is starting to be used. Barclays recently experimented with voice printing as an identification for its wealthiest clients. It was so successful that Barclays is rolling it out to the rest of its 12 million retail-banking customers.

Iain Hanlon, a Barclays executive, said that voice biometrics will be the de facto standard in the next two or three years.

It works based on the idea that a timbre of each person’s voice is unique. Typical speaker recognition software compares those characteristics with data held on a server. If two voiceprints are similar enough, the system declares them a match.

So far, the largest implementation identified by the AP is in Turkey, where mobile phone company Turkcell has taken the voice biometric data of some 10 million customers using technology provided by market leader Nuance Communications.

US coppers use the technology to monitor inmates and track offenders who have been paroled.

In New Zealand, the Internal Revenue Department collected its 1 millionth voiceprint, leading the revenue minister to boast that his country had “the highest level of voice biometric enrollments per capita in the world.”

In South Africa, roughly 7 million voiceprints have been collected by the country’s Social Security Agency, in part to verify that those claiming pensions are still alive.