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What Is Apple Doing With Your Voiceprint?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 14, 2012

Comments (1)

Apple's digital assistant, Siri, What can I help you with? microphone iconJust as each one of us has our own unique fingerprints, our voices also have their own voiceprints.

In addition to being unique, your voiceprint can also be used to positively identify you.

What does this mean, why does it matter and how might technology relate?

Find out in today's VOX Daily.

Whose Voice Is It Anyway?

When I first started writing this article, my intention was to talk about how our voices, like fingerprints, are distinct. The human voice, although we all have one, is a very personal thing and the uniqueness of our individual voiceprint sets us apart from one another.

Even the closest voice matching when voice acting doesn't fully 'match' when you get down to it, although the match could be close enough.

While doing some research on the topic, I happened to find a number of recent articles raising concerns over Apple's digital assistant Siri. According to a number of reports, Siri, during the course of helping to answer questions and the like, is also storing information about you on Apple's servers, specifically your voiceprint.

David Talbot, chief correspondent for MIT's Technology ReviewAs covered on Mashable on June 28, 2012, David Talbot (pictured at left), writing for MIT's Technology Review, reported that researchers are concerned that Apple's digital assistant Siri is taking far too intimate an imprint of our biometrics and storing far too much of that data on Apple servers. The data contained in those voice recordings differs from other data pumped out by smartphones and computers in that it's distinct for each individual.

While voiceprints are not as unique as fingerprints, Talbot relates that a voiceprint can positively identify the speaker in many circumstances. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses voiceprints to identify frequent travelers who have enrolled in a system to allow speedy border crossings, for instance.

There are a number of opinions presented in the full article from people in speech recognition and language services that you may find interesting as well as additional information that I have not included here for the sake of brevity.

If you'd like to read David Talbot's article for more information and greater context, here's a link:

Wiping Away Your Siri "Fingerprint"

What Can I Help You With?

Just pause and think of the many times you may have asked Siri a question. Each time you engaged in conversation with Siri, Siri recorded your voice and sent it over the airwaves to be stored on Apple's servers for an undisclosed period of time.

Why has this flown under the radar for so long? Perhaps because it has to do with an intangible, such as the voice, and most people don't question it or the thought doesn't even occur to them.

Your Thoughts?

The one thing I love to use Siri for is to dictate messages. Perhaps you use Siri quite a bit and may be reconsidering its use.

What do you think of all this? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes,
Stephanie

iStockphoto.com©manley099

Related Topics: Apple, Celebrity, iPhone, SAG, Siri


Comments


    I think that, as with Google and Facebook, if we are choosing to use a free service to get the information we're looking for then we should expect to give a little user data back in return. In this case it is our "voiceprint". How will Apple use the audio it collects in the future? Well, perhaps as the author points out it may be a way to recognise us and secure our iPhone. Maybe eventually it will "tag" us automatically in sounds across the web such as on Audioboo, Soundcloud etc.

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