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Communications Privacy Technology

The Speakularity, Where Everything You Say Is Transcribed and Searchable 74

An anonymous reader sends an article from Nautilus about the possible future of speech recognition software. Today, hundreds of millions of people are walking around with devices that can not only record sound, but also do a decent job of turning spoken word into searchable text. The article makes the case that the recording and transcription of normal conversation will become commonplace, sooner or later. Not only would this potentially make a lot more interesting discussion available beyond earshot, but it could also facilitate information retrieval on a personal level.

The article makes an analogy with email — right now, if you communicated with somebody through email a decade ago, you don't have to remember the specifics — as long as you didn't delete it or switch email providers, you can just search and look at exactly what was said. Of course, the power of such technology comes with trade-offs — not only would we be worried about the obvious privacy issues, but many people may feel restricted by always "performing" for the microphones. Some researchers also worry that if we have technology to remember for us, we'll put much less effort into remembering things ourselves.
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The Speakularity, Where Everything You Say Is Transcribed and Searchable

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  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Thursday September 03, 2015 @11:10AM (#50451241)

    Not everything that is technically feasible becomes commonplace. Despite increasingly clever marketing creating artificial demands, people still tend to have their own mind.

    • And what could possibly go wrong?

      Dear Aunt [brilliantdays.com] ...

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Thing of it is, it's not the phone that's interpreting the voice, it's servers at the other end of a long network connection that take the recorded sound bite and convert it into text.

      So no, right now it's not terribly feasible because there are not enough servers to handle more than specific requests.

      Besides, how narcissistic is it to document every moment, and who's going to want to review all of that? The only use that I see for such technology is to spy on everyone Stasi-style. Think of the scen
      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Thing of it is, it's not the phone that's interpreting the voice, it's servers at the other end of a long network connection that take the recorded sound bite and convert it into text.

        So no, right now it's not terribly feasible because there are not enough servers to handle more than specific requests.

        We know the NSA records every phone call, transcribes everything, and has a searchable DB, for multiple countries including the US, thanks to the Snowden leaks. Voice just isn't that much data, when you buy drives and servers in billion-dollar lots. Your tax dollars at work.

    • True, but consider this:

      - We are already all caught on video dozens of times per day.
      - Your smart phone already listens to everything you say, in case you might say some key word that it needs to react to.
      - Newer TVs and other electronic devices are becoming more voice activated.

      The trend is definitely in the direction of more surveillance. It's just a matter of time before that includes audio, as well as video.

      • Your smart phone already listens to everything you say, in case you might say some key word that it needs to react to.

        No. No, my phone does not. Does anyone actually run down their battery and keep their phone unlocked and vulnerable to keep some voice-activated app always running?

        Newer TVs and other electronic devices are becoming more voice activated.

        A pointless gimmick that's a usability fail. [cnet.com]

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

          Your phone is always awake, or can be, which is to say, the CPU running, albeit in a lower power state. From there, it takes very little energy to simply record what the mic is picking up. It doesn't need to be translated, and it can be sent, compressed, at widely spaced intervals in terms of battery load. It could be sent while you are otherwise connected. You'd be unlikely to notice a difference in power consumption.

        • Your phone can listen to you even when it is locked.

          But you are missing the point. Even if we are not quite there yet, we are a very, very short distance from being listened to constantly.

    • by tomkost ( 944194 )
      I was imaging this a few years ago. Would be nice to have meeting transcriptions created automatically. People often try to selectively forget or change their remembrance of what they said. And I get the privacy concerns. It's going to happen so we might as well figure out when it's appropriate and how to control it. I'm pretty sure the NSA can turn the mic on your phone and auto transcribe any time they want to. We need SW options and laws to make this work and prevent abuse.
  • They're correct and it's too late, at least for me. I've been using email in this manner since around 2001 or so and have an entire archive of all of my email to back around 1997 or so. I haven't had to revisit 1997-2002, but I still maintain the archive. As for 2002-forward, I use it often to find something that I worked on for one employer or another through those years and will continue to do so. I don't feel there's a need to use brain cells to remember something that's at my finger tips and yes, I am a
    • I can't say I've looked at anything older than about 3 years, but I do have it going back > 10 years - even though I have changed ISPs 4 times.
    • The email analogy is interesting. Sure, you can usually find something in your email archives if you really have to, but as a knowledge repository it *sucks*. And transcriptions of conversations will make an equally sucky repository, mostly useful for replaying a conversation. What these archives need is technology that can infer some useful info from all that data, like a digital PA whom you can ask questions. "Who was the project manager on that project I did back around 2005?" or "Did Central Service
  • by anzha ( 138288 ) on Thursday September 03, 2015 @11:15AM (#50451299) Homepage Journal
    haha. Wow. Tom Scott seems to have called it [youtube.com]. Now all we need is Apple to come up with mini cameras in the earbuds.
  • Looking forward to this tech evening up arguments with my wife.
  • by aynoknman ( 1071612 ) on Thursday September 03, 2015 @11:23AM (#50451369)

    That's when the successors to Google glass not only deliver images to our eyes but also monitor them at the same time and record what we're looking at.

  • Well thanks to the wonders of OCR we can already google physical books and street views. So the next step would be to extend recognition technology from static objects to events, objects with the added dimension of time.
  • OK Google (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It sounds crazy but are we really that far behind with always listening devices? Imagine brand recognition or "need fulfillment" services pinging off everything you say

    "Man, it's hot out" translates into a device showing a Coke advert. I feel like this isn't far off

    • "Man, it's hot out" translates into a device showing a Coke advert. I feel like this isn't far off

      I agree, but the way the technology stumbles before it gets perfected.

      It will probably be an advertisement for a hot man at a Chip N Dale club. The second time you say it, you'll be more careful enunciating it, but then it will be your Nest thermostat that starts cooling down the inside of your place (not having fully understood the "out" in your statement, when you were obviously just "in" when you said it).

      Eventually, you'll just learn to shut up whenever you're in range of that microphone, and you'll be

  • If you have not seen it, I would suggest watching Black Mirror TV series. Season 2 Episode 1 (usual wikipedia spoilers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]) is about similar subject - having devices which record everything you see and hear and being able to replay it all at any point.

    • >> having devices which record everything you see and hear

      Those are called cell phones. And Windows 10 machines (soon to be backported to Windows 7/8).

      >> being able to replay it all at any point

      I think we know who already has those.

  • I have every email sent & received since '94, all in mbox format by year by email address. Easy to do and it comes in handy. Why not record conversations too!

    • I have every email sent & received since '94, all in mbox format by year by email address. Easy to do and it comes in handy. Why not record conversations too!

      Curious as to how a 20-year old email comes in handy for you. Or even a 15-year old one.

      And yes, it's a serious question, as it helps justify this mentality. Consider the fact we're the last generation to even remember what life is like without a constant barrage of electronic communications, and have a finite amount of data to identify and archive. For future generations, the start and end points to their data archives will be their birth announcement and their obituary. And you already know I'm not be

  • "but many people may feel restricted by always "performing" for the microphones. "

    You'd better already be that _today_. Not only the NSA listens, as we lately discovered, depending on where you live, half the time you are phoning over one of the police's illegal stingray 'cell-towers'.

    So, don't talk about tax-evasion, drug orders or merchandise that 'fell off the truck' and so on.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Everything you say *can* and *will* be used against you...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just think about a law suit where discovery has started. Anything that you had recorded and could be searched with be a record that the court could require you to produce. Talk about hanging yourself......

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Thursday September 03, 2015 @12:34PM (#50451843)
    Tonight when I go to bed I will be thankful that there's one less day to live.
  • If this becomes wide spread and available to everyone everywhere, we may finally come to peace with the fact that we're all hypocrites. I have come to the conclusion that pointing out someone else's hypocrisy is just a tool used for momentary one-up-manship.
  • Yeah, that just rolls off the tongue...

    Don't quit your day job. Unless you're in marketing, in which case you should quit because you're terrible at it.

  • you can just search and look at exactly what was said

    Excepting Secretaries of State, of course.

    I just aliased the reformat command to the word 'Benghazi'.

  • by gregor-e ( 136142 ) on Thursday September 03, 2015 @04:13PM (#50453453) Homepage
    Nowadays we wring our hands and tsk-tsk the loss of old film reels, books, and magazines, fearing the loss of part of our culture. In the future, people will yearn for the golden days of yore, when an inappropriate remark might elicit a titter of embarrassed laughter before vanishing into the fog of entropy.
  • NSA and FBI wet dream that is what it is. hell no, i will never allow that. Even if i did i can't even find an email from 6 months ago for something. Unless i tag it on the fly i would never find half of my stuff. the data would have to be auto tagged or organized properly. I do think there is software for that, but I don't think consumers are going to like the creepy feel of searching every word you ever spoke..
  • Truth and honesty are areas that we will have more and more trouble with. People really do not want openes as most feel that they are the ones who will suffer if exposed.

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