The terrifying development in worldwide surveillance: Ecuador has implemented what it’s calling the “world’s first” countrywide voice- and facial-recognition system to aid in pursuing criminals. According to Russian company Speech Technology Center (which operates as SpeechPro in the U.S.), the system employed by Ecuador allows the user to ID the speaker on a tapped call with 97 percent accuracy, referencing it against a database containing snippets as many as millions of voices, and has facial recognition good enough to ID a person even after significant changes to his or her appearance.
In order to correctly identify a voice, authorities would have to match it against an already-identified recording of a suspect, so the designation of the system as “countrywide” is a little misleading–unless the Ecuadorian government is able to keep a recording of every one of its citizens on file.
Even so, surveillance on this scale is frightening, especially when it’s affordable enough to be implemented by a relatively small country like Ecuador. As Slate points out, add that to Ecuador’s shoddy record on censorship and dissent, and you’ve got good reason to be wary.
Several federal and local governments have purchased similar systems from Speech Technology Center, including those in Kazakhstan, Belarus, Thailand, and Uzbekistan. “We’re seeing a growing demand for these kinds of tailored voice and multi-modal biometric solutions,” said Speech Technology Center CEO Mikhail Khitrov. “Not just in Latin America, but in the global marketplace.”