NSA voice recognition technology: ‘Blanket surveillance, not tracking criminals
All the surveillance these days come from George Orwell’s 1984 as a logical extension. From churning out propaganda as well as telescreens spying and are clearly a perfect way of violating the privacy rights.
Media during the years found out that US NSA( National Security Agency) uses special software for voice recognition and for detecting locations. Probably wondering why?
They use it to spy on people. What’s more concerning, NSA over more than a decade records and also gathers private phone calls in order to identify persons, based on their voiceprint.
RT journalists had a discussion with William Binney, known as ex NSA whistelblower and technical director and with Richard, Barbrook knows as academic at the University of Westminster.
Barbrook told RT, that in 1984 George Orwell had the idea that a part of the population had telescreens and where TV’s can spy on you and additionally provide you propaganda. Being a logical extension of this.
Nowadays, things are tighter then does days. Because we have phones, tablets, laptops and most phones have voice assistants as Siri, Cortana and many other which carry tons of data of you. Barbrook continued, that people now are paranoid, when it comes to voice surveillance and other system of surveillance from 30 years ago, however now accept it.
Sneaky thing from NSA is that they use the commercial sector to get what they desire.
However, a response seemed not so sincere from Barbrook after was asked about, tons of collection made on voice recording by NSA. Where he said that they are not tracking people and it’s just a blanket surveillance nothing to be afraid.
He also added that people don’t need to say a thing regarding the fact that police chases pedophiles or terrorists.
Sadly here is not only about targeted surveillance, yet all of us are a target and tons of data is being collected and scanned. Everything happening on the idea to find suspect things.
Barbrook notes that for NSA the whistleblowers are a priority for them. Also, they are looking to hide from people what these guys really do.
What William Binney added
The former whistleblower and technical director affirmed something like this;
The recent technology is developing very fast and so it treys to figure things in a mass of data. Now things are becoming itchy when you want to access large amounts of data.
Binney affirmed that would be very effective to use a tool in order to identify a specific person. Yet this can be quite hard if you are looking to locate it in a city with more then 200,000 inhabitants. So, this could be a problem. He, also added that technology isn’t that so accurate as people believe.
The former whistleblower was asked about the impact of this and if the NSA technology can identify dissenter within the agency. He responded, that if a whistleblower will talk about inside thing and more exactly about a specific program. Then in order to identify him, you only need to pick the voice print and look into the agency people. For sure will be a positive result.
Interesting fact declared by Binney is that he believes that using this kind of technology you are invading the privacy right. But, excepting the person who has strong data regarding any possible infractions, he is a strong target for a program.
Yet, the last of the data you are requested to purge it quickly.
George W Bush administration clean?
NSA had a huge impact on George W Bush’s administration. Since they deleted surveillance data regarding wiretapping. Reveled lastly by US federal court.
The administration had an interesting act over the 9/11. Since they declared they need to free space on their drives, by deleting questions regarding the attack. However, the court had a word to say here. When they sent an order to preserve them in case of further examination.
But a beautiful fact Binne declared. That this kind of data disappears pretty often. In this way, he says they have a backside in case of an investigation, no data will be free to the public.
The same thing happens with whistleblowers when the Defense Inspector General did the same thing. Whistleblowers were in court with a criminal trial. They managed to destroy evidence and this happened because it was exculpatory and were trying to avoid exposure. Binney added, that I don’t count if you lie to the people of US or in front of the Congress, or maybe to the president. This doesn’t matter because there is no accountability and NSA has a huge power.
A very interesting fact happen when Senator Chuck Schumer advised Trump to not think of attacking the intelligence community. “Because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to get back at you.” RT source
Binney concluded. This is how they really do it!
The NSA’s voice-recognition system raises hard questions for Echo and Google Home
For this part, for now, I want to start imagining you are looking for somebody in the world.(We can name him Zed.) You know him very well, as he knows you. However, you reached a point where you don’t know where’s hiding.
Now, probably you thinking how to find him? For this kind of situations, only with a computerized scan.
The first chance of finding him can be, facial recognition. This is possible in airports, pictures from social media. Yet, you hope he’ll walk by a camera.
The second chance could be his voice. You know as all of us carries a phone or maybe makes a call from a public phone. Even if he tries to hide from this kind of things, yet there are many microphones he could encounter.
This thing can last longer. It’s a matter of time until he passes by in the background of a friend who is talking to it’s Echo.
A similar thing happens to NSA. This secret came to light in 2004. When a program named Voice RT, was able to match speakers to a voiceprint( a very important aspect of finding Zed) and also creating usual transcriptions.
The system began in 2009 over the chief of staff of Pakistani army. Even if there where only a few voice clips for building a good model.
The same event happens in 2007 on 100 Iranian delegates with phones. Why? Because the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York.
A system like this one, where seen before. The most recent is happen with the Coast Guard. But none of them is a good as this one the Voice RT. It came to raise many questions regarding the voice recordings.
Is very known that NSA had access to US phone infrastructure. A deal that came from the Snowden documents. However, the recent years had a boom when it comes to voice assistants as Google Home and Amazon Echo. The voice audio of these to throw a nice flood in the clouds, from where NSA was more than happy to intercept the talks.
Do home assistant are a target for NSA’s amazing voice scanning program? Are Amazon and Google putting efforts to offer more protection to their users?
However, this assistant retains some data, yet only after they hear “Alexa” or ‘”Okay Google’. Here police can access the data in case of a possible crime or burglary in your home. But in this case, NSA’ system will go for a voice then for some words. By this said, the wake-word is not such a big issue. In case is possible to send all the data to Amazon’s or Google’s servers you can get in exchange a full profile of the owner.
Since speech-to-text algorithms are pretty new, Amazon and Google keep the audio data in a cloud. In this way, they can have a catalog of the transcription errors. By this, I see way NSA is so tempted.
Amazon on the customer’s side
The company is not providing any customer information without a legal demand served on them.
The Intercept article, speaks how the program went in NSA. Interesting, nobody from Amazon or Google said this is possible. Yet, is not wrong to be suspicious. Even is an order as this might come to a such a company for sure no words will come out from what happened. Until now, transparency is little to be noticed and how much data NSA gets from the voice assistants.
The funny part comes now.
Amazon is acting pretty shifty when listing requests regarding Echo data, in a recent report about transparency. On the other hand, Google treats the voice recordings as a usual user of data and doesn’t really care about specific requests about Google Home.
Recently, an Amazon representative said something like this”Will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us”. source TheVerge.
A good question is. How much data home assistants retain?
Well, there are not reasons to store audio data on any kind of request, particularly, a default that poses privacy risks.
If these giants really want to reduce this kind of threats, they need to stop lurking on requests made over particular users. They better take Siri as an example, adding the anonymous identifier.
By this, they could keep texts instead of audio, or maybe they could develop on devices speech-to-text chats.
However, Home and Echo weren’t created by NSA. Amazon and Google had good intentions when they created these home assistants. But, they never thought will be a perfect tool for surveillance. The same as the didn’t think the voice of a person needs protection.
A very common thing happened to ad-targeting as being a great technology, now’s becoming a system of control and surveillance.
Now, what will happen to Amazon, Google and their customers are on their hand.
Sure we are on the same page when it comes to this. What I plead is for freedom and the craziness over control that seems to come from NSA.