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Experts Worry as Germany Tests Voice Recognition Software to Screen Refugees

Experts Worry as Germany Tests Voice Recognition Software to Screen Refugees
From Gizmodo - March 19, 2017

Germany announced this week that it will begin testing voice recognition software in its screening of refugees seeking asylum. The approach may help speed up the processing of hundreds of thousands of migrants, but some experts fear that the imperfect technology could cause more harm than good.

In 1998, Germany began to use speech analysis to help determine the country of origin for asylum seekers. Reportedly, around 60 percent of refugees arrive without the required identification papers. Traditionally, if there are doubts about an applicants stated homeland, a recording of them having a conversation will be sent to a linguist for verification. With a major refugee crisis hitting the region, theres now a backlog of 430,000 applications to verify.

But automated speech analysis isnt just an altruistic effort to bring more people through the system faster. Its also part of an initiative to detect applicants who might falsely state they are from a country like Syria in order to receive preferential treatment. The possibility of voice recognition technology being inadequate presents a problem for advocates of relaxed immigration policy who wouldnt want someone to be wrongly turned away. And its a problem for hardliners who fear nefarious characters being smuggled in for the purposes of terrorism.

The system that will be tested over two weeks was designed for use by banks and insurance companies. Ideally, it should be able to recognize where an applicant is from based on a sample of their speech. That analysis would then be paired with other indicators and might raise a flag for further review.

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