Nationwide Voice and Face Recognition Launches in Ecuador

12/18/2012 07:04

 Ecuador has installed a nationwide system that lets government officials ID "several million" people by their voices and faces, Slate reported.

If an Ecuadorian agency taps a phone line, for example, it is now able to match the voices in a call with a database of "voiceprints" of known criminals, suspects and persons of interest. The voice system is 97 percent accurate, says the system's maker, SpeechPro, the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian company called Speech Technology Center. Adding face recognition makes the system nearly foolproof, SpeechPro's website adds.

Ecuador's new ID tech is a sign of the increasing affordability of countrywide systems that identify people by their biological characteristics, called biometrics, Slate reported. Ecuador has a gross domestic product of about $127 billion, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Countries with similar GDPs include Iraq and New Zealand.

"As biometric technologies mature, we're seeing a growing demand for these kinds of tailored voice and multi-modal biometric solutions — not just in Latin America, but in the global marketplace," Mikhail Khitrov, SpeechPro's CEO, said in a statement. SpeechPro's site says it has sold biometric products to more than 70 countries, including the world's first nationwide voice ID system in Mexico.

In addition to helping police agencies catch criminals, however, the increased availability of biometrics tech could help corrupt governments track and silence noncriminal citizens for their political views or whistleblowing. Speech Technology Center has been accused of selling its systems to authoritarian agencies around the world, although the company says it only sells to trusted law enforcement, Slate reported. LiveScience

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