Listen to My Voice, Tell Me Who I Am

Can I identify you using voice recognition technologies? There are two parts to this question. First, does the technology actually work effectively enough so that the recognition is accurate? The second part is, do callers believe it works well and can be depended upon to be consistently viable to verify them?

Does Speaker Recognition Work?

I have worked with speaker and speech recognition many times in my career. I've learned that recognizing who a person is by their voice is different than recognizing the words they speak. I primarily work with Nuance's Dragon speech-to-text conversion program; it's accurate, but not always. Of the demonstrations of speaker recognition I've seen at exhibits and conferences, most seem to have accuracy in the range of 85% to 90%.

As I learned in a recent Pindrop Blog post, biometric technology offers a newer way to combat fraudsters by enabling identification through something a person is -- like retinas, fingerprints, and speech -- rather than something a person knows -- like passwords. But when it comes to voice biometrics tools, their success is often determined by the quality of the underlying machine learning tools. In other words, biometrics will work for identification, but it's not guaranteed to be perfect. For example, synthetic voice can be used to falsifying a speaker's voice, thereby circumventing speaker recognition/voice biometric technologies.

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Voice Recognition Acceptance

How do consumers view voice recognition? According to a Pindrop study conducted by Harris Poll of more than 3,000 U.S. adults, nearly half of Americans indicated they would be likely to use voice recognition as a form of personal verification. Further, 81% of respondents believe there are benefits to using voice recognition for the purposes of personal verification.

Customers Drive Voice Verification

Voice recognition could be particularly useful for contact center scenarios. The Pindrop study found that among consumers' top complaints are the number of steps they must go through to prove who they are when calling into a contact center for support or assistance. Furthermore, 18% of respondents indicated that that experience is difficult because they were unable to remember the answers to their own security questions and were thus locked out of their accounts. Voice/speaker verification can go a long way toward reducing these frustrations.

Uncertainty with Speaker Recognition

Even if 81% of respondents expressed a belief in the benefits of voice recognition for verification, concerns still exist. On the other hand, 94% reported that they think there are drawbacks to this technology. The primary reasons for skepticism include:

  • Background noise may cause the tech to not work well (61%)
  • Accuracy of the technology (60%)
  • As mentioned above, there is concern about voice cloning/synthetic voice that can fool the recognition system (48%)
  • Accents may prevent widespread automated voice recognition (43%)
  • Security limitations (39%)
  • If the user does not speak loudly and clearly, while in a quiet environment, the technology will not work (36%)
  • Because this is a new technology, many people will not know how the verification mechanism works and therefore may distrust it (31%)

Voice is not going to disappear in our economy. Voice activated services are increasing; take, for example, the products and services from Google and Apple. There are UC&C platforms that can be voice activated. There is an effort to increase security through multifactor authentication, with voice being one of those factors. Unfortunately, as voice activated mechanisms become common, fraudsters will leverage other technologies to bypass the security.

We need to employ speaker recognition. We also need to believe it works. More reports on the security effectiveness of speaker recognition need to be performed.

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