Prisons are using voice recognition technology as mass surveillance
Throughout the country, prisons are acquiring technology to translate incarcerated people’s voices into specific biometric signatures to create mass computer databases.
Voice prints, the unique signatures of individuals, are being extracted from prisoner phone calls and digitized onto databases. This allows a prison’s computer algorithms to detect whenever the voice prints appears, and track the call recipients of interest to each prisoner.
The Intercept reports that the voice recognition technology is currently being used in several counties in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas. Other states including New York are currently processing requests to obtain and utilize similar voice recognition technology.
While the technology has been compared to other consumer products such as Amazon’s Alex, it was intended for U.S. military purposes. Many prison technology companies, such as Securus Technologies, began to develop their telecommunication through funding by the Department of Defense.
The compilation of voice prints are active state surveillance against America’s prisoners. The technology is not always made aware to prisoners and lacks transparency. Prisons punish prisoners if they don’t comply with program by placing phone restrictions. And others simply surveil them without their consent.
Authorities justify the expansion of prison surveillance by claiming its only used for “suspicious” activities and to deter potential crime. In a phone call, Michael Lynch, an intelligence coordinator for Alachua County Jail in Florida, said, “The problem is inmates that are committing other criminal acts or contacting victims or witnesses and using other inmates’ PIN to do that. Voice will tell us who’s making the calls.”
But Jerome Greco, a digital forensics attorney at New York’s Legal Aid Society, explained what the violation of privacy really implicates to the Intercept. “Why am I giving up my rights because I’m receiving a call from somebody who has been convicted of a crime?” Greco asked. “If you have a family member convicted of a crime, yet you haven’t been, why are you now having your information being used for government investigations?