American prisoners are being forced — on pain of losing access to the prison phone system — to provide training data for a voice-print recognition algorithm that private contractors are building for biometric surveillance system that listens in on prisoners' calls.
Some prisoners are secretly "enrolled" in the program when their voices are recorded during phone calls; the people they speak to on the outside are also sometimes "enrolled" without their knowledge or consent.
The software is being provided by Securus, a notoriously abusive private security firm with a track record for gross privacy violations, as well as gouging prisoners and their families.
Securus's voice surveillance tool is called Investigator Pro, and it was developed through a $50,000,000 gift from the US Department of Defense, on the promise that it would be used to listen to millions of phone calls and identify the voices of terrorists.
New York's contract proposal with Securus states that outsiders' voice samples can be used to "search for all other calls" in their recorded call database to find where those voices occur. In an email, New York prison officials confirmed that this program will give investigators the ability to extract a voice print from an outside caller and use it to "identify that a call recipient has participated in multiple phone calls." They added that the program will not have names associated with outsiders' voice prints.
In a statement, Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Navideh Forghani also confirmed this outsider voice-tracking capability, noting that while their software does not identify non-incarcerated people by name, it can track "suspicious activities," such as "multiple inmates speaking to one person on the outside on a reoccurring basis."
With this technology, a press release for Investigator Pro notes, an investigator can now answer questions like, "What other inmates are talking to this particular called party?" and "Are any of my current inmates talking to this released inmate?"
Prisons Across the U.S. Are Quietly Building Databases of Incarcerated People's Voice Prints [George Joseph/The Intercept]
(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY)